By Patty Lovera
After never getting around to it last year, the full House of Representatives is finally working on a farm bill and they seem to be trying to make up for lost time. Yesterday they set a very quick pace, plowing through dozens of amendments and working until close to midnight (so they can keep on schedule to adjourn Thursday afternoon and make it home to their districts for the weekend.)
The version of the bill sent to the House floor by the House Agriculture Committee is very flawed (you can read more about it here). It cuts food stamps by $20 billion, fails to restore funding for almost all the organic and sustainable agriculture programs that expired last year, and includes a provision that would effectively overturn state laws that set food and agriculture standards that are higher than federal rules.
The potential for improving the House farm bill on the floor rests on what amendments are considered. On Monday afternoon, members filed over 200 amendments covering a range of issues. Some of them would have made critical improvements to the bill on restoring organic programs like certification cost share, stopping retaliation against farmers who speak out about unfair treatment by meatpackers and poultry processors, and dealing with contamination caused by field trials of genetically engineered crops and the growing threat of weed resistance. But none of these good amendments survived the Rules Committee process, which determines which amendments actually get a vote on the House floor. Late Tuesday night, the Rules Committee cut the list of over 200 to about 90 that would actually get a vote.
That list of 90 is what the House started to tackle yesterday. There were more amendments we oppose than support. Some of the good amendments have already been voted down.