Members of the food movement are hopeful for the opportunity to restart negotiations after the House of Representatives today handily rejected a $940 billion Farm Bill by a final vote of 234 to 195. Not only would the 5-year bill have slashed food assistance for needy families, it had disastrous consequences for small farmers. Today’s defeat means that Congress will need to go back to the drawing board and come up with a bill that works for the American people.
“The GOP-led Farm Bill sought to line the pockets of agribusiness while taking money from the programs that are driving local economies, helping family farms and protecting consumers and the environment,” said Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs for Center for Food Safety. “What is clear is that the American people won’t stand for policies that take us backwards and today the House of Representatives agreed with them.”
One of the largest stumbling blocks in the bill was its over $20 billion cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) otherwise referred to as food stamps. However, the bill received strong criticisms from Democrats and Republicans alike for failing to adequately support small family farms and organic agriculture, as well as to reign in Federal support to the country’s richest and largest factory farms.
Despite organic being one of the fastest growing agricultural sectors, the House bill either repealed or unfunded most of the major organic programs in the bill. While numerous amendments were filed to restore funding or address inequities in organic programs, no organic specific amendments ever received a vote.
The otherwise disappointing amendment process was dotted with a few victories for consumers and the environment. An amendment offered by Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL) to improve federal coordination in protecting honey bees and pollinators won by a large margin, as did an amendment by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) to cap commodity subsidies and close loopholes.
The Senate has already passed its version of the Farm Bill, while the White House had threatened to veto the House version. It is not immediately clear how the Republican leadership will proceed with the bill, but for now the blame game in Washington, D.C. begins while small farmers remain unsupported.