Peterson says no Dem amendments as conservatives demand farm program cuts
May 3, 2018
Last week, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, told radio host Mike Adams that he would ask the House Rules Committee to issue a rule that would forbid House members who did not pledge to vote for the final farm bill to offer amendments on the floor.
Conaway said he didn't want people like House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who is opposed to the bill, to offer amendments. It's unclear whether Conaway can convince House Rules to issue such a rule, but it looks like his real problem will be House Republicans.
Peterson said today that House Democrats don't plan to offer any amendments to the farm bill if it comes up on the House floor, while two conservative members of the House introduced a bill that would impose the cuts demanded by conservative groups to farm programs that President Donald Trump proposed in his fiscal year 2019 budget.
"We won't have any amendments," Peterson told Adams on the "Adams on Agriculture" radio program. Pressed repeatedly by Adams about whether there would be amendments, Peterson said there would be "none" and that he does not expect a single Democrat to vote for the bill if it comes to a vote on the House floor.
The House Agriculture Committee recently approved the farm bill but with only Republican votes. Peterson said that Democratic members of the committee consider the nutrition title to be "an affront" to them.
The Republican bill would impose work requirements on food stamp beneficiaries up to age 59, except for children, the disabled and people caring for young children. It will also make qualifying for food stamps harder by restricting categorical eligibility programs under which people qualify for food stamps — formally the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – by participating in other government assistance programs.
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Peterson said he agrees that "people should work," but disagrees with a provision that would take "savings" from fewer people participating and use it for a work training program because it would amount to spending "a huge amount of money on this bureaucracy."
"The problem with people not working is that they are not working because they live in the wrong place," Peterson said. States will still grant waivers to areas of high unemployment, Peterson said, while "others caught up in this will run through a huge bureaucracy" and be expected to drive to workforce centers that are rare in rural America.
"I don't agree with what they are doing," Peterson added.
Peterson also repeated previous statements that he is not "excited" about the farm program portions of the bill, particularly the "spending and consolidation" in the conservation title and the size of the safety net under the commodity title.
He noted that the spending under the 2014 farm bill is $130 billion less than projected, and said he believes agriculture "deserves" some of that money back to improve the farm program.
Peterson said he has not had any recent conversations with Conaway, but is willing to engage in them if Conaway initiates the conversation. But he also noted that Conaway has said he will not negotiate about the nutrition title.
Noting that he was recently named the most bipartisan member of Congress, Peterson said, "If they can't work with me, they can't work with anybody."
Meanwhile, Republican Reps. Ralph Norman of South Carolina and Paul Gosar of Arizona introduced a bill they call "President Trump's Farm Bill Reforms Act of 2018." The bill would "amend the Federal Crop Insurance Act and Food Security Act of 1985 to enact reforms to farm subsidies and crop insurance called for in President Trump's budget for fiscal year 2019," according to its official description.
"If we are serious about tackling our nation's spending problem, then we cannot be afraid to enact the common-sense reforms to our farm safety net that were outlined in President Trump's budget for fiscal year 2019," Norman said in a statement as Congress left town last week. "Congressman Gosar and myself are proud of the support that this bill has already earned from respected conservative groups like the R Street Institute, FreedomWorks, Taxpayers for Common Sense, and the National Taxpayers Union, and we look forward to continuing to advocate for reining in taxpayer spending on farm subsidies without jeopardizing the generous safety net that our nation provides to farmers."
Norman's statement included endorsements from several conservative groups.
Caroline Kitchens, federal affairs manager at the R Street Institute, said, "With farm bill reauthorization on the horizon, now is the time to enact common-sense reforms to right-size the farm safety net. The reforms represented in this bill are a crucial first step for ending the cronyism and waste rampant in our farm-support programs."
Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks, said, "In the House Agriculture Committee's latest farm bill proposal, there are no meaningful steps to resolve the wasteful, anti-free-market subsidies that are added to the bill each time it is renewed. These subsidies cost the taxpayer billions of dollars and do not accomplish their stated goal of helping farmers in need. The reforms spelled out in this bill … do not hurt farmers, but ensure that the subsidies are given out efficiently, and to those who actually need it.
"Struggling farmers are not benefiting from farm subsidies, but instead the wealthiest farm corporations are padding their profits with taxpayer money," Brandon added. "It needs to end. H.R. 5629 will lead to a marked improvement of the agricultural marketplace."
Joshua Sewell, senior policy analyst at Taxpayers for Common Sense, said, "House aggies conveniently forgot to include these common-sense reforms to help create a more cost-effective, transparent financial safety net for agricultural businesses in their recent farm bill. The Norman-Gosar bill is a great step toward creating a federal financial safety net for agriculture that taxpayers can afford – it slightly trims federal crop insurance subsidies, closes loopholes that allow certain commodity growers to evade subsidy payment limits, and targets federal financial assistance to only those businesses with less than $500,000 in income. It stands in stark contrast to the bloated House farm bill – which increases spending on over-budget agricultural income entitlement programs, opens even more subsidy payment loopholes, and increases Washington's footprint in farming and ranching. We look forward to working with Reps. Norman and Gosar to implement these common-sense reforms to make federal agriculture policy work better for consumers, communities affected by agricultural production, and taxpayers."
The National Taxpayers Union said, "If enacted, these reforms would modernize the agricultural safety net, while cutting wasteful spending, limiting excess taxpayer exposure to risk, and reducing the prevalence of crony capitalism. These common-sense reforms, recommended by the Office of Management and Budget, have broad support among free market organizations. As the president's budget is an expression of national priorities, these reforms warrant serious consideration in the ongoing farm bill debate. NTU is pleased to support this legislation."
Today, a coalition of conservative groups organized by Heritage Action urged "all House members to play a leading role in making major reforms to the out-of-control farm subsidy system."
In a blog post, the groups including the Club for Growth said, "The House Agriculture Committee farm bill, which is expected to be debated on the House floor in May, is unacceptable. It not only fails to make reforms to farm subsidies, but actually makes the subsidies even worse. For example, it creates new ways to funnel more money to agricultural producers, including to individuals who do not even farm.
Our concerns about farm subsidies go well beyond excessive and unjustified costs to taxpayers. Subsidy reform is so important to our organizations because the existing subsidy system violates the most basic principles of conservatism, including a belief in free enterprise and limited government."