Speaker Faces Farm Bill Debacle

Speaker of the House John Boehner is facing a major crisis regarding the 2012 Farm Bill. With farmers and agricultural interest groups pushing for rapid action and with fiscal conservatives demanding serious budget cuts, Boehner may have a difficult time passing the bill without alienating a significant portion of his political coalition.

The farm bill debate has been at the center of Washington drama for months, if not longer. After long delays, the Senate passed their version of the bill earlier this summer, followed by the House Agriculture Committee on July 11.

The problem facing Boehner, however, is that the GOP majority in the House is split between powerful and competing interest groups. Tea Party conservatives, elected in 2010, are fighting with GOP moderates over a proposed $16 billion cut in the Food Stamp Program. Rural Republicans and representatives from agricultural communities are pushing for the bill to be passed ASAP, while fiscal conservatives are uncomfortable with the bill’s high price tag.

Added to this mix is internal debate within the Democratic Party over food stamp reductions. With uncertain support for the bill in both parties, a full floor vote could present Boehner with the embarrassing possibility of the farm bill being defeated.

Sidestepping the bill until after the election could avoid a public airing of this embarrassing intraparty fighting, but could also risk the economic health of agricultural communities.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer