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Democrats Blast House Farm Bill in Rules Panel Hearing


Democrats took their opportunity to fire away at the House version of the 2018 farm bill during a hearing of the House Rules Committee May 15.

Even before he had a chance to introduce the bill before the committee, Democrats attacked the nutrition title of the bill as sponsored by Chairman Mike Conaway, R-TX, particularly its changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“Ultimately, the committee reached an impasse over the nutrition title, primarily over the question of whether work-capable adults should work or get free work training for 20 hours per week to be eligible for SNAP benefits. I respect the views of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle on this question—even though I do not share their conclusion.

“Outside of SNAP, I want to underscore to this committee just how important passage of the farm bill is right now. We are in the midst of a five-year recession in agriculture. Farmers and ranchers have seen net farm income drop by 52 percent. This is among the steepest declines in net farm income since the Great Depression.”

Democrats returned to their arguments over SNAP

Rules committee Ranking Member Jim McGovern, D-MA, who also sits on the Agriculture Committee, attempted to raise an amendment to send the bill back to the Agriculture Committee, but Republicans rejected it.

“This is not thought out. This is why there is such dissension. Maybe it came from the Speaker’s office or maybe it came from the Heritage Foundation,” McGovern said. “You’re trying to tell me that people on SNAP are lazy. It creates an underfunded mandate that lands on the states. The attempt is to make it so burdensome people won’t jump through all the hoops and apply.

“When I was growing up it was school bullies that went after kids’ lunch money, it wasn’t the United States Congress. This is shameful.”

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-FL, said, “I don’t think you even know what it’s like to be poor. Under this bill, the rich will get richer and poor will keep on getting poorer.”

In the end, the committee voted for a rule providing for one hour of general debate on May 17 equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the House Agriculture Committee on Agriculture. After general debate the bill shall be considered for amendment under the five-minute rule.

Twenty lesser amendments were given the go-ahead for debate on the House floor as decided by the Rules Committee. Each amendment will be given 10 minutes for debate. They are:

• By Steve King, R-IA, allowing Environmental Quality Incentives Program to go into contracts with drainage districts to provide irrigation or water efficiency.

• By Bob Gibbs, R-OH, expressing a sense of congress encouraging partnerships at the watershed level between nonpoint sources and regulated point sources to advance the goals of the Water Pollution Control Act.

• By Tom Marino, R-PA; and Mike Burgess, R-TX; requiring the Government Accountability Office to establish a pilot program in nine states to determine whether specific items being purchased with SNAP benefits can be collected using existing reporting requirements and whether such reporting requirements can be improved.

• By Mike Rogers, R-AL, amending the nutrition title to allow SNAP users to purchase a multivitamin with their SNAP benefits.

• By Jack Bergman, R-MI, directing the GAO to study the agricultural credit needs of farms, ranches, and related agricultural businesses that are owned or operated by Indian tribes on tribal lands or enrolled members of Indian tribes on Indian allotments. If needs are not being met, report shall include legislative and other recommendations that would result in a system under which the needs are met in an equitable and effective manner.

• By Jodey Arrington, R-TX, modifying the Community Facilities Direct Loan and Guarantee Loan Program and the Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program to permit rural hospitals to refinance existing debt.

• By Walter Jones , R-NC, removing the first 1,500 individuals residing on military bases from calculation into population thresholds set for ‘rural areas.’

• By Bob Latta, R-OH; and Dave Loebsack, D-IA, requiring the Federal Communications Commission, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to establish a task force for reviewing the connectivity and technology needs of precision agriculture in the United States.

• By Glenn Thompson, R-PA, adding Chronic Wasting Disease to Sec. 7208, High-Priority Research and Extension Initiatives.

• By Paul Gosar, R-AZ; Greg Gianforte, R-MT; and Chris Stewart, R-UT, authorizing counties to be included in Good Neighbor Authority cooperative agreements and contracts in order to improve forest health and bolster watershed restoration.

• By Gianforte, to authorize expedited salvage operations for areas burned by wildfire to salvage dead trees and reforest to prevent re-burn, provide for the utilization of burned trees, or to provide a funding source for reforestation. Requires a two-month environmental assessment for reforestation activities and at least 75 percent of the burned area be reforested.

• By Westerman; Gosar; and Rob Bishop, R-UT; requiring the Forest Service to consider longterm health of our nation’s forests when developing collaborative management plans, and shields agency decision making from certain injunctions on sustainable forest management.

• By Don Young, R-AK, exempting all National Forests in Alaska from the U.S. Forest Service Roadless Rule.

• By Steve Pearce, R-NM, allowing the Village of Santa Clara to purchase land from the United States Forest Service that was formerly part of Fort Bayard Military Reservation.

• By Gosar; Pearce; Doug LaMalfa, R-CA; and Jason Smith, R-MO; streamlining the Forest Service application process required to construct broadband infrastructure on federal land.

• By Westerman, instructing USDA and the U.S. Department of Interior to provide Congress a yearly report tabulating the metrics surrounding wildfire prevention, including the number of acres treated and agency response time.

• By Pearce, reauthorizing the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program for another 10 years.

• By Gosar and Scott Tipton, R-CO, authorizing the U.S. Forest Service to convey 3.61 acres of Forest Service Land to Dolores County, Colorado for the strict purpose of building a fire station.

• By Mac Thornberry, R-TX, establishing Cattle and Carcass Grading Correlation and Training Centers to limit subjectivity and increase the accuracy of grading cattle across the country.

The “more intellectually stimulating amendments,” as Chairman Pete Sessions, R-TX, put it, will be dealt with in the Rules Committee May 16 at 2 p.m. CDT. Those amendments likely will deal with—among other things—the sugar program, crop insurance and checkoffs.

Source: Larry Dreiling, High Plains Journal

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