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Mike's Blog

Insights from the President of ProAg

It is what it is…

by Mike Connealy on 06.20.2013

The votes are in and those against the 2013 Farm bill have 235 votes and those in favor only managed to get 194 votes. There were six members that did not vote. The vote summary is here

Despite excellent floor management by Chairman Frank Lucas (R. Oklahoma) and Ranking Minority Member Collin Peterson (D. Minnesota), they could not pull the highly controversial final version across the finish line.  Regardless of this final vote, both deserve our heartfelt thanks and respect for a yeoman’s work in attempting to get a Farm Bill passed in the House.

You can read all of the professional opinions on whether the failure was primarily the result of the level of SNAP cuts, the dairy program, left wing Democrats, right wing Republicans, or whatever.  The fact remains this version did not pass. 

On the crop insurance side we were successful, by a disappointingly razor thin margin, in defeating the Kind poison pill amendment. This amendment largely sought to end private sector delivery by cutting A&O and underwriting expectations to levels that would mean certain financial losses for agents and companies.  Look through the vote list here and you can see which members were swayed by the Ron Kind (Environmental Working Group) mis-information campaign.

Bob Goodlatte (R.Virginia) is an example of someone apparently confused as he hammered away on the Dairy program, and eventually won that battle, leading the charge for Speaker Boehner (R. Ohio) in a partisan donnybrook. He then capped off the day by inexplicably opposing Chairman Lucas, Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Cantor (R. Virginia) and conventional agriculture, by being the only Republican member of the House Ag Committee to poke Chairman Lucas in the eye with a no vote. He was recently Chairman of the HAC, yet he apparently cannot be counted on for anything. 

In any case, the vote on the Kind poison pill needs to be carefully studied for future lobbying. We either have to do a better job of educating on the truth, or plan for the demise of crop insurance as we know it today.  Every single material and informed grower group, Farm Credit groups plus the likes of Farm Bureau, clearly and vigorously opposed the Kind amendment, yet we only defeated it by a handful of votes. 
 
Goodlatte represents how difficult it is to do an accurate “post mortem” on this vote. We always counted on the east coast and west coast food stamp supporters Pelosi (D. of California) and McGovern (D. of Massachusetts) to oppose final passage. We also knew that the right wing Tea Party types that vote no on most everything Radel (R. of Florida) and Bachmann (R. of Minnesota) would vote with their left wing friends and oppose passage. Ranking Member Peterson was able to deliver 24 democrats, less than he hoped but about 15% of his caucus. The fact Chairman Lucas and his leadership lost 62 republican votes (more than 25%) and including so called house leaders in Goodlatte and Paul Ryan (R. Wisconsin) is stunning. Farm state and usually well informed republicans such as Stutzman of Indiana and Huelskamp of Kansas also chose to vote no, we will need to watch for an explanation. 

As regards to what is next, we will have to wait for the dust to settle from this storm. The affected parties need to cool off and keep the finger pointing to a minimum. We should also watch and see how the interested parties react to the vote. We can expect that the far right types, such as Heritage Action For America group and the fringe left, such as the Environmental Working Group, will be blowing their respective horns.  Each claiming that “their side” prevailed, although neither could have done it without their philosophical opposite being in the same “vote no” camp. 

This certainly means that another Farm Bill extension is a possibility.  It also means that a 2014 crop year implementation of new legislation is unlikely. The 2014 SRA is effective on July 1, 2013 and we expect business as usual will again be the case for the upcoming crop year. The clear fact is that “no farm bill” is not a big problem for crop insurance in 2014.  No farm bill is far superior to a “bad farm bill,” which unfortunately can’t be yet ruled out with the political types that currently populate this Congress. 

In closing, ProAg thanks our industry partners (CIRB, NCIS and CIPA) that worked tirelessly to educate members on the facts about crop insurance. We also owe a debt of gratitude to Chris Roe and his lobbying team at CUNA Mutual for their efforts.  Chris literally walked Capitol Hill with Bob Parkerson today (Thursday), telling the ProAg® story on how this business actually works. As with the House Agriculture Committee leadership, we did not lose this final vote due to a lack of effort.  The crop industry and ProAg were well represented and professional in our work to preserve this critically important and successful program. 

Questions or comments are welcome, for now “it is what it is”… 

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