The House of Representatives narrowly passed a farm-only version of a bill to renew and revise the nation's agricultural and nutrition assistance programs Thursday, but a compromise bill's status remains uncertain.
Thursday's 216-208 vote gives House and Senate leaders the ability to hash out a bills that bridges wide gaps in the scope and priorities of their respective bills in conference, but the vote was received with concern of the method used to pass it.
House leaders removed portions of the bill reforming nutrition assistance to low-income families and individuals, which represent more than three-quarters of the Farm Bill spending, while maintaining policies effecting farmers and agri-business.
Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, voted for the House bill, which he described the House bill as a "critical step forward" for the agricultural community by providing regulatory reforms and cost-effective programs. In a statement, Collins expressed optimism that the House and Senate could pass an agriculture-focused bill and take up nutrition progress at a later date.
"I look forward to this bill going to conference with the Senate so our farmers and ranchers can have the certainty they deserve as they work hard every day to feed America," Collins said.
Across the aisle, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, led a coalition of Democratic Senators calling for nutritional assistance programs to be maintained in negotiations with House leadership.
"We believe that splitting the Farm Bill, while appearing to be politically expedient in the short-term, will undermine future efforts to pass robust agricultural policy that also protects the food safety net for millions of Americans," the letter signed by Schumer and Gillibrand stated.
Genesee County's congressional representatives have all voted in favor of their body's versions of the bill in the past month. The Senate's farm bill passed with the support Schumer and Gillibrand June 10. Collins voted in favor of both versions of the House bill, including a full bill that failed due to liberal and conservative dissent.
While he praised portions of the House bill, New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton urged that both of the farm bill's traditional components continued to be tied together. The Farm Bureau opposed splitting the bill, which Norton said allows for urban and rural support for agricultural policies.
"Passage of a Farm Bill in the House today should have been a moment for great celebration, but instead, New York's farmers are left with continued uncertainty about how this bill will become law before the current version expires in September," Norton said.
"We appreciate the diligent work of the many members of our delegation, including our Agriculture Committee members, for their hard work on the Farm Bill, but we could not support a process that has unknown long-term ramifications," Norton said. "New York Farm Bureau will continue to work with the entire Congressional delegation for successful completion of a Farm Bill that serves the needs of farmers, our communities and our neighbors in need."