House Democratic leaders surgically picked apart opposition from urban lawmakers to continued crop subsidies, beating back efforts by environmental and food advocates to change a mammoth five-year farm bill.
Bay Area activists focused enormous energy on the farm bill this year, arguing that the five-year, $256 billion legislation has a profound effect on the food Americans eat and the environment they live in. They argued that crop subsidies skew food production, separating consumers from farmers, and encouraging farm industrialization, obesity and environmental damage.
Farm Bill Changes Defeated
Republican Support Key
Farm state lawmakers, allied with House Democratic leaders, last night easily defeated a proposal for a major overhaul of traditional farm programs that would have pared subsidies to big growers and spread benefits more broadly.
The 309 to 117 vote came on the first day of debate on a multiyear farm bill that was heading for final action today.
Republican support for the bill was in doubt last night because of a dispute over a provision that would tighten rules on the use of tax havens by U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies.
A multibillion-dollar farm bill laden with subsidies for major U.S. crops survived a key test Thursday and Democrats reached for the votes to pass it after defeating a bid to begin weaning farmers from government payments.
The 309-117 vote to reject the bipartisan amendment by Reps. Ron Kind, D-Wis., and Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, was an important victory for Democratic leaders, who cut several eleventh-hour deals to corral enough support in their own ranks to push through the bill. A final vote was expected Friday.
Democratic leaders trumpeted the legislation as an important step toward modernizing farm programs, even though it would leave in place and in some cases increase subsidies to producers of major crops at a time of record-high prices in farm country. It contains more money for conservation, nutrition and specialty crop programs than past farm bills, but far less than many Democrats wanted.
"There is something in this bill for everybody to like," said Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. "There's probably something in this bill for everybody not to like, but it's a step in the right direction."