This vote was on a motion that would have required the farm bill to be split into two pieces of legislation – one governing farm policy and the other authorizing programs that provide assistance to low-income Americans.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) offered the “motion to recommit,” which would have required the farm bill to be pulled from consideration and sent back to the Agriculture Committee. Although it is commonly called the “farm bill,” the legislation under consideration by the Senate was actually comprised of two major components. One component included price supports for farmers and funding for rural economic development. The other component, which receives about 80 percent of the funding authorized by the bill, is made up of food assistance and other programs to help low-income families.
Farm bills have historically included these two distantly related topics in an effort to attract support both from rural lawmakers, who are key supporters of farm programs, and urban lawmakers who value food assistance more highly.
Sen. Johnson argued that the bill should be split into two so that each major component would receive a vote on its own merits.
“(This motion to recommit) recognizes the reality that what we have in front of us is not really a farm bill but a food stamp bill,” Sen. Johnson said. “I think it is more than appropriate to split these bills in two so both bills, the food stamp bill and the farm bill, would get more scrutiny and there would be more debate.”
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who opposed the motion, argued that the bill’s authors had made significant efforts to reform both farm-related and food assistance programs. The bill did not need to be split in two because both of its components were worthy of support, she said.
“These are major reforms (and) $23 billion-plus in deficit reduction. It addresses the diversity of agriculture – 16 million jobs are connected to agriculture in every corner of our country,” Sen. Stabenow said. “All of us have a stake in food security. We have the safest, most affordable food supply in the world thanks to a lot of hard-working folks all across this country. We believe what we have put forward is something worthy of support.”
Sen. Johnson’s motion to recommit was defeated by a vote of 40-59. Voting “yea” were 40 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 53 Democrats and 6 Republicans. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to split the farm bill into two pieces of legislation – one governing farm policy and the other authorizing programs that provide assistance to low-income Americans.