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Farm bill has one more chance

DANIEL LOOKER Updated: 09/14/2012 @ 3:12pm Business Editor

A bipartisan group in the House of Representives took one last stand Thursday to force a vote on a farm bill before Congress leaves town to campaign for re-election. Shortly after the House Agriculture Committee formally reported out its version of a farm bill adopted last July, Representative Bruce Braley, (D-IA) a filed a petition to force the vote.

Braley has to get 218 signatures, a simple majority, to succeed. In the first 15 minutes the petition was available he got 15, a staffer told Agriculture.com

“Today, we took a tremendous step forward toward forcing a vote on the Farm Bill," Braley said in a statement.  "After 65 days of dithering and distraction, Speaker [John] Boehner (R-OH) has finally allowed the bill to be released from Committee.  Today, I’ve filed my bipartisan discharge petition to force this bill to the Floor. I urge my colleagues to sign the petition immediately."


“Now that we, a group of Democrats and Republicans, have filed this discharge petition, and it’s available for signatures, we’ll see who really supports the Farm Bill Now,” he added.

That was welcome news to National Farmers Union, which along with Farm Bureau, organized a rally of almost 90 groups urging a vote.

“The filing of today’s discharge petition is necessary because House leadership has refused to bring the bill to the floor," said NFU President Roger Johnson. "We are encouraging all of our members to contact their representatives to stress the importance of signing the petition and force Congress to act.” 

NFU is also supporting a letter being circulated by Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Peter Welch (D–VT) seeking a meeting on the farm bill with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA).

Some Republican leaders have said that putting the House and Senate farm bills together in a conference committee will be a complicated process that should be left for the lame duck session of Congress in November and December after the election.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), a former Senate Agriculture Committee chairman, told Agriculture.com Thursday that the ideal course of action would be for the House to simply vote on the bill already passed by the Senate, since it would not require a conference committee. The next best option would be to pass the House farm bill this month, which would allow staff to work on it in October and for a conference committee to put the bills together in November, he said.

Delaying a House farm bill vote until November "would be problematic," Harkin said. "Then you've got a Thanksgiving break hanging in there. I'm not saying it's impossible. I'm just saying it's more possible if they pass it now."

You can view Braley's petition and see who has signed it here.


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