The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

October 6, 2012

Experts: Bill delay no big deal

Oklahoma’s farms and ranches didn’t disappear when the 2008 farm bill expired at midnight Sept. 30.

Oklahoma agriculture experts agree Congress could wait until March to approve the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 without damaging American agriculture.

Senators and representatives left Washington, D.C., in September. They aren’t scheduled to return until after the Nov. 6 election. The House passed its version of the farm bill in June, but the House version has been stalled because leaders don’t have the votes to make larger cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he didn’t bring the farm bill up for a vote because he didn’t have the 218 votes to pass it.

“We’ve got people who believe there’s not enough reform in the farm bill that came out of committee. We’ve got others who believe there’s too much reform in the bill,” Boehner told The Associated Press recently.

The House Agriculture Committee approved the bill in July by a 35-11 vote, with chairman U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., praising the bill.

“This is a balanced, reform-minded, fiscally responsible bill that underscores our commitment to production agriculture and rural America, achieves real savings, and improves program efficiency,” Lucas said at the time of the bill’s passage out of committee.

During a visit to Enid in August, Lucas said the House Agriculture Committee is the least polarized of all House committees, despite the differences of some of the members.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said House Republicans had the votes to pass the bill, but plan to add it to talks between Congress and the White House about spending cuts and the nation’s $16 trillion national debt.

“Unfortunately, House Republicans left Washington without passing comprehensive, multi-year food, farm and jobs legislation, leaving thousands of farming families exposed,” Vilsack said. “U.S. agriculture is fighting to maintain the tremendous momentum it has built over the past three years, but with natural disasters and other external forces threatening livelihoods of our farmers and ranchers, certainty is more important than ever.”

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