Key Amendment to Farm Bill Fails by Large, Bi-partisan Vote, Paves Way for House’s Passage

The sugar program is safe for another year. The leaders of the House Agriculture Committee are speaking again. All is well in farm policy country.

The House still must pass the GOP farm bill, with the final vote expected today. But yesterday House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway finished beating back the last major threat to farm programs when the House overwhelmingly defeated a sugar reform amendment, 137-278. A similar amendment failed by a much smaller margin in 2013, 206-221.

Defeat of the sugar amendment all but cleared the way for the bill to pass the House, assuming GOP leaders could work out an unrelated immigration issue with the House Freedom Caucus.

After the sugar vote, Conaway went to Peterson to thank him for getting 146 Democratic votes against the amendment. It was the first time that the two men had talked in five weeks due to their deep divide over the bill’s food stamp reforms.

Why it matters: The huge margin on the amendment was a devastating blow to food and candy makers, who’ve been trying for years to roll back the sugar program. It also will provide no encouragement to critics of other farm programs.

House approval of the sugar amendment would have emboldened critics to go after other forms of commodity programs, Conaway said. “While sugar is just one commodity, if we lost that … then the wolves would go after everything else.”

But keep in mind: The House GOP leadership, led by Speaker Paul Ryan, helped defeat the amendment in order to ensure the farm bill and its SNAP reforms would pass the House. But the politics may be very different next time a farm bill is on the floor.

Peterson said he pleaded with Democratic colleagues yesterday morning to help him defeat the amendment by reminding them that he had led their fight against the overall bill.

Source: AgriMarketing

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