House Again Rejects Steeper Cuts To Ag Programs

The House on Thursday rejected a slate of amendments that would have further reduced agriculture spending beyond the $2.7 billion in discretionary spending cuts already in the bill.

Members soundly rejected a proposal to cut discretionary spending by formula. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) proposed language that would cut these programs by five percent, but this lost in a 109-310 vote.

The House also turned away proposals that would have limited farm subsidy payments to farmers above certain amounts or certain income levels.

By a 154-262 vote, members rejected an amendment from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) that would prohibit more than $125,000 in subsidies from being paid to farmers. Blumenauer and his supporters argued unsuccessfully that cutting these large subsidies would go a long way toward deficit reduction.

Similarly, the House voted 186-228 against language from Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) that would have prohibited the payment of farm subsidies to people with adjusted gross incomes above $250,000.

Rep. Tim Holden (D-Pa.) proposed restoring more than $1 billion in mandatory conservation funding by cutting discretionary programs by 5.88 percent. However, this was rejected in a 84-335 vote.

Another vote of interest was the 223-197 decision in favor of an amendment from Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) that prohibits USDA payments to the Brazil Cotton Institute. The U.S. currently pays that group $147 million per year as part of a settlement in a cotton subsidies dispute that Brazil won against the U.S. in the World Trade Organization.

The vote on this amendment was held open for several minutes to allow some “yes” votes to turn back into “no” votes. The number of “yes” votes reached as high as 229.

The addition of this language is potentially trouble for the agriculture bill, since most agree it will be difficult to stop making payments to Brazil until U.S. farm policies are overhauled in the 2012 farm bill.

Members also voted 283-128 to prohibit funds in the bill from being used for the construction of ethanol blender pumps or ethanol storage facilities. The Senate later on Thursday is expected to vote on an amendment that would end the tax credit for ethanol blending.

Other amendments accepted by the House would block funding for USDA’s “know your farmer, know your food” program, and prohibit funding for USDA’s policy statement on climate change adaption.

Among the amendments rejected by members were ones that would reduce Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service funding by $11 million, increase Food and Drug Administration funds by $49 million, and block payments to settle cases involving USDA discrimination against black farmers.

(Source: The Hill | By Pete Kasperowicz)

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