Debate over farm bill begins in U.S. House

Washington — Debate was slated to begin earlier this week on the U.S. House’s version of a farm bill, that which funds farm and conservation programs, as well as food stamps. The Senate passed its version of the bill June 10.

As of earlier this week, conservation leaders were uncertain if key provisions they believe are vital would be included in the House bill. Provisions that would link government-subsidized crop insurance to conservation compliance, as well as a “sodsaver” provision to protect native grasslands had been offered as amendments to the House bill, but whether they’d be debated on the floor remained to be seen.

House members Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., earlier this month introduced the Crop Insurance Accountability Act, which would require farmers who receive crop insurance subsidies to carry out basic conservation measures on their farms.

“Those are things the sporting community has been working vigorously on,” said Scott Kovarovics, executive director of the Izaak Walton League of America.

Kovarovics said 200-plus amendments had been offered regarding the bill, though some were redundant.

The Senate passed its farm bill by a vote of 66-27. It’s expected to cost about $100 billion annually, about 80 percent of which is for the nutrition, or food stamp, program. Unlike the current House bill, the Senate bill includes both the conservation compliance measure regarding crop insurance subsidies, as well as sodsaver, according to the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Dan Wrinn, director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited, said inclusion of those provisions “will invest taxpayer funds in environmentally responsible farming practices, promoting farming of our nation’s most traditionally productive areas.”

House debate promised to be lively, focused mostly on a plan that would cut nutrition program funding by about 3 percent and make it harder for people to qualify. The bill also eliminates some farm subsidies.

The White House earlier this week threatened a veto of the House version of the bill, stating food stamp cuts would leave some people in the country hungry.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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