Rep. Peter Welch, D - Vermont: “The goal here has to be sustainability of American agriculture. We can’t have a system where one side really profits while the other side perishes. We all have to be in this together.”
Fresh off their 4th of July recess, federal lawmakers spent much of the past week hashing out amendments to the House version of the 2012 farm bill. Following passage of the Senate’s version, House leaders voted this week to slash funding for domestic nutrition programs and maintain some principles largely defended by southern farm interests. The $957 billion measure passed on a bipartisan 35-11 vote early Thursday morning.
But it faces strong opposition from many conservatives who say it still spends too much.
Speaker of the House John Boehner called the bill’s dairy program “soviet style” in practice due to heavy government price controls.
Rep. Costa: “The joke in California is what do dairymen when milk prices are up? They produce more milk. What do they do when milk prices are down? They produce more milk?”
Under the House version, dairy farmers may choose to participate in a margin protection program in which they receive payments when profit margin plunges. In exchange for participation, dairy operators must agree to limit production. The federal government would continue to buy dairy products for food bank donations that, in turn, support prices.
Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Georgia Rep. David Scott proposed replacement of the complex system with a simpler insurance program.
But with chairman Lucas’ opposition, the Goodlatte-Scott amendment was defeated 29-17 in committee.
Supporters of the House dairy proposal argue the new program contains triggers that terminate when domestic and export demand is high.
Despite the dairy decision, the overall bill faces an uncertain future in which election-year gridlock could postpone any significant legislation. In the face of criticism for nutrition program cuts, supporters argue the 2012 farm bill, above all else, will preserve a farm safety net.