Top Ag Dem to block work on farm bill

The top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee will block any work on a new five-year farm bill until Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) promises to bring the bill to the floor.

Ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) said he will not participate in any farm bill planning or markup in committee until he gets an answer from Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on floor time.

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“There isn’t going to be a markup in the foreseeable future unless we get some kind of commitment,” Peterson said. 

Last year, the committee produced a bill but it was not allowed on the floor. The "fiscal cliff" tax deal at the end of Congress simply extended the 2008 farm bill, which expired Sept. 30, by one year.  

Peterson said that House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) understands “he can’t do it without me.” Given opposition within the Republican Party to farm subsidy spending, any farm bill would need rural Democrats to pass. 

He sent a scathing letter to Boehner on Thursday outlining his demand.

Peterson said that Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) agrees that no farm bill should move forward until Boehner responds. 

“Given your long-standing opposition to farm programs and previous farm bills, it was no surprise that there were provisions in the bill that you could not support. But instead of allowing those objections to be aired in an open debate and letting the House 'work its will,' the Republican Leadership bottled up the Committee’s farm bill,” Peterson wrote. “Having served together on the Agriculture Committee for many years, I could not believe that you and your Leadership team could treat the committee with such disrespect.”

Peterson wrote that he thinks Boehner should announce this month a schedule for considering the farm bill, which covers subsidies to farmers and food stamp spending. 

The ranking member told The Hill that he wants to keep the farm bill separate from any deal on the debt ceiling in February. The last 2012 farm bill had $35 billion in savings but Lucas and Peterson could not hitch it to the fiscal-cliff deal.

“I don’t want to get involved in anything [like that] because it just backfires on you,” he said.