On Thursday, the House passed a short-term $383 million measure to provide immediate relief for farmers and livestock producers impacted by the recent drought. Conservative groups urged Representatives to proceed with caution on a pork-laden farm bill, as roughly 80 percent of the bill dealt with items such as food stamps rather than actual farming issues.
The House, knowing the five-year measure it was considering may have trouble passing, brought up the short term measure to ensure immediate relief could be given to farmers who needed it.
According to the New York Times, as soon as the House bill passed, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) took to the Senate floor to say the Senate would not consider the House measure and instead “lawmakers would instead work informally over the August recess to try to put together a new measure to present to Congress when it meets in September.”
Stabenow did this, the Times notes, even though the White House would have considered signing the measure passed in the House into law.
As Farmpolicy.com notes, Stabenow authored the Senate farm bill, which would cost nearly $1 trillion over ten years. Stabenow wants the farm bill to be closer to her version and will use the leverage she has and play politics to try and get her way.
Many Republicans criticized the Senate for playing politics with the farm bill and adding more uncertainty to the lives of farmers who need immediate emergency assistance.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said “the idea that we would decide” to put off the farm bill for another month “was totally unacceptable” because it would put affected “families in jeopardy for another month, not knowing what their situation is.”
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said in a statement that the Senate’s inaction was “irresponsible” and “political” and was a “shameful” abdication “of our duty to the cattlemen and women that feed the world” for “partisan gain.”
“I am outraged the Senate Democrats left town without even considering the House passed disaster package,” Roberts said. “They are playing politics with a devastating drought. Make no mistake – the consequences of Senate inaction on this historic drought will not only be felt at home in Kansas, they will be felt in rising food prices at dinner tables across the nation.”
According to The Hill, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) said the Senate was “playing games with disaster aid.”
While leaving the door open for a stand-alone bill if negotiations fail shortly before the Sept. 30 deadline, Stabenow insisted that Senators “assess all of what needs to happen and come back to approve a very comprehensive disaster assistance program.”
But in the meantime — while Congress goes on a five-week recess — farmers whose lands have been stricken by drought are left with even more uncertainty.