The Future of the Farm Bill Now Uncertain

Last week, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (H.R. 1947), the "farm bill," went down in defeat on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives with a vote of 195-234, when 62 Republicans joined 172 Democrats in voting against the bill. The bill establishes important federal farm, food and rural policies that affect the environment, economic growth and public health. Cities rely on the programs in the farm bill to increase access to healthy food, improve local food systems, and fund economic development and infrastructure projects. The last farm bill became law in 2008 and expired last year, though many of the programs authorized in that bill were extended until September 30, 2013.

Much of the opposition to the bill focused on a proposed $20.5 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with many Democrats contending the cut was too large and some Republicans concerned the cut did not go far enough. SNAP is a federal grant program that provides vital assistance to those suffering from hunger, especially senior citizens, low-income residents and children.

Advocating for the local perspective on the bill, NLC had urged House members to support amendments preserving SNAP, promoting access to healthy food, improving rural development programs, and increasing funding for water and wastewater systems.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the farm bill, 66-27, with 18 Republicans joining 46 Democrats and 2 Independents in supporting the measure. The Senate bill provided funding for important rural development programs, including $50 million for addressing the water and wastewater program backlog. It also reduced funding for SNAP by $4 billion as compared to the $20.5 billion proposed in the House.

With the defeat in the House, the path forward for a new farm bill is now uncertain. NLC will continue to work with leadership in both chambers of Congress to get a bill passed that will support economic growth in rural areas and increase access to healthy, local food in all communities.