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Home » From the Commissioner

Farm Bill Stumbles Again

New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food (June 27, 2013)

The Farm Bill is an every-five-years exercise in Congressional compromise, glued together by urban representatives concerned about food stamps and other nutrition programs, and farm state representatives supporting crop programs, agricultural research, etc. The Senate passed a Farm Bill in 2012, but the Speaker of the House of Representatives did not bring the House Farm Bill to the floor for a vote. The House and Senate managed to patch together an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill—which runs until September 30.

On June 10, the Senate approved its 2013 Farm Bill, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013, by a bipartisan vote of 66 to 27.  The House Ag Committee subsequently passed its own bipartisan Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, similar in many ways to the Senate’s but with deeper cuts to SNAP, the food stamp program. Subsequently, the House passed some amendments, including the Goodlatte Amendment (291 to 135), which stripped the Market Stabilization Program out of the new dairy program–despite its rejection by the Ag Committee. The vote on the 2013 Farm Bill stunned many seasoned Washington observers, who expressed surprise when the bill failed—and by such a lopsided 195-234 vote.

Long-time northeast agricultural lobbyist Bob Gray says the defeat is the first time in the nearly 50-year history of comprehensive Farm Bills, that a Farm Bill was rejected by one of the legislative bodies in Congress. Next steps are unclear at this time. Several possibilities involve yet another extension of the current farm law. The House Ag Committee could start over and readjust the nutrition cuts and/or farm program reforms to induce more support. The House and Senate could go to conference with the bill passed by the Senate to try to get a full bill, as was done in the last Congress in order to get a transportation bill. Congress could also pass an extension and wait until next year to do a full bill, or attach a Farm Bill to another must-pass bill. Some talk of splitting the food assistance apart from the agriculture part, but others caution that both could end up with less than half a loaf.

Agricultural organizations and rural advocacy groups expressed frustration with the House’s inability to pass a Farm Bill for the second year in a row. “The House did the American people a true injustice today,” National Grange President Ed Luttrell said after learning of the bill’s defeat. The statement said there is public misunderstanding about aspects of the bill, “but Congress should be more aware than the average American of the need to pass legislation that gives farmers a better safety net, enhances conservation, stabilizes and enhances safety measures for food and assists in the promotion of our products in foreign markets.”

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman expressed great disappointment that the House did not complete work on what he described as “a balanced bill that would have provided much needed risk management tools and a viable economic safety net for America’s farmers and ranchers.” National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said that “the House voted against the best interests of family farmers and rural America.”


Incessant showers and rain has crop farmers tearing their hair out. But farmers and growers are dealing with more uncertainty than just the weather this season. The proposed rules for the Food Safety Modernization Act that was passed by Congress two and a half years ago could affect more New Hampshire farmers than many think. See the FSMA summary on this page with basic information and how to provide comments to the Food & Drug Administration.

Lorraine Merrill, Commissioner           lorrainemerrill                                                             

(reprinted from the Weekly Market Bulletin, June 26, 2013)


The NH Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food Division of Agricultural Development compiles market information and publishes the Weekly Market Bulletin for the agriculture community. The Bulletin is the department’s ‘publication of record’ and includes appropriate industry notices, announcements, seasonal information and market survey data. Subscribers may advertise in the popular agricultural classified advertising at no charge. One-year subscriptions are $28 for delivery by U.S. Postal Service, or $22 for delivery by secure internet. Sign up for the Weekly Market Bulletin by calling the office at 271-2505 and providing a credit card for payment; or visit the office at 25 Capitol St., Concord; or mail in your request with a check. Be sure to provide your address, phone number, and if you are requesting an online subscription, an email address.


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