The Farm Bill Heads to Conference Committee

Quail habitat and quail hunting depend on a conservation-friendly Farm Bill. Photo by Roger Hil

“What is going on with the Farm Bill?” is the question filling up my inbox and voicemail. It’s been more of a challenge to answer that inquiry in recent weeks than at any time in my career. Frankly, it looks like the answer will remain murky for the foreseeable future. Here’s what I can tell you:
Farm Bill Clears House
You may recall the 2012 Farm Bill died without ever reaching the full House floor for a vote. Last month, the 2013 Farm Bill made it to the House floor only to be surprisingly defeated on June 20th with very little precedent for “what happens next.” In another unpredictable turn, the U.S. House of Representatives abruptly brought the Farm Bill back to the House floor for a vote on Thursday, July 11th. This time round, the Farm Bill went before the House with the controversial Food Stamp legislation completely removed from the rest of the Bill, presumably to be dealt with separately at a later date. The resulting Farm Bill passed in a “split House” vote of 216 to 208.
Now What?
So, we have a comprehensive Senate Farm Bill with a strong conservation title; including CRP funding, WRP funding, a national Sodsaver provision and a re-linking of conservation compliance to crop insurance.
On the House side, we have a Farm Bill that doesn’t mirror the same components from the Senate (i.e. Food Stamp language). Also, the Conservation Title in the House version doesn’t include a crop insurance connection to conservation compliance. Additionally, the Sodsaver language in the House version is regional, rather than national like the Senate’s bill, in scope.
The two incongruent Farm Bills are now on to a Senate and House conference committee with the challenging task of rectifying the differences between the two bills for a full Congressional vote. And the clock is ticking. The current 2012 Farm Bill extension expires on September 30th and President Obama has also promised a veto of any Farm Bill reaching his desk without Food Stamp language included.
Clear as mud? No question. That’s why it’s so important Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are part of this process at every step. We remain vigilant in our push for a new Farm Bill before the September deadline. America’s wildlife, water resources and outdoor traditions depend upon strong federal conservation policy. Rest assured, we are in D.C. fighting for roosters, quail, and hunters during these challenging times.
In the coming days and weeks ahead, please stay tuned to this blog and our social media outlets (Facebook & Twitter) as we will be issuing Action Alerts to help put pressure on our elected officials to vote in support of strong conservation policy.
The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Quail Forever & Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.