House kills proposals to restrict farm subsidies, ban Christmas tree 'tax'

"What we're trying to do is maintain an element of risk in farming, again, in a fiscally responsible manner, by tightening up crop insurance programs that we feel have become too excessive," Kind said late Wednesday. He added that the reforms would save $11 billion.

ADVERTISEMENT
But the House barely defeated his proposal in a 208-217 vote on Thursday morning, after several members of both parties spoke out against it last night. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) said the proposal is a "slap in the face" to farmers, and said it was no doubt supported by "radical environmental groups."

But Kind said many taxpayer groups are pushing for the changes.

"Unless my good friend wants to include the National Taxpayer Union, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Citizens Against Government Waste, Americans for Tax Reform, Committee for Responsible Taxation, American Commitment for the Center for Individual Liberty, 'R' Street Competitive Enterprise Institute in that category of radical environmental groups ... they've all come out in support, endorsing this legislation," he said.

In a separate vote, the House rejected an amendment from Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) that would have prevented the Obama administration from accepting an industry proposal to impose a fee on Christmas trees to fund promotion efforts.

Walorski called it a Christmas tree "tax" that would have hurt middle-class American families.

"There is no justification to impose another tax on the American people," she said.

But Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) said it is "ludicrous" to call the proposed 15 cents-per-tree fee a tax, because it is similar to marketing fees that other agricultural industries collect for marketing and promotion purposes.

"The idea that this is a tax is absolutely ludicrous, with all due respect," he said in Wednesday debate. "This is a fee that the industry has come to us, just like the cattlemen did, just like the cotton growers did, just like the dairy men did, to help promote their industry."

On Thursday morning, the House agreed with Schrader and defeated Walorski's language in a 197-227 vote.

Several other amendments were considered in roll-call votes, from:

— John Garamendi (D-Calif.), allowing states participating in the Forest Legacy Act to allow qualified land trusts to hold conservation lands, so the state government does not have to. Failed 206-219.

— Tom Marino (R-Pa.), repealing the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program that awards grants to educate fleet operators and the public about using biodiesel fuels. Failed 194-230.

— Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), eliminating the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion program, saving $40 million. Failed 156-269.

— Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), eliminating language in the bill stating that if a marketing order for olive oil is established, olive oil imports would be subject to restrictions such as taste testing. Passed 343-81.

— Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), allowing farmed shellfish to be eligible for USDA marketing and research assistance. Failed 208-218.

— John Carney (D-Del.), maintaining current law that allows savings gained from renegotiating federal crop insurance goes back into crop insurance programs. Failed 174-252.