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By Jonathan Knutson, Forum News Service, Published June 21 2013

Farm groups dismayed by House defeat

GRAND FORKS – Farm group leaders said they’re surprised and disappointed that the U.S. House rejected a new farm bill Thursday. They also say they’re not sure what comes next.

“Today’s failure leaves the entire food and agriculture sector in the lurch,” the American Soybean Association said in a statement after Thursday’s vote.

The House defeated 234-195 a farm bill that would have funded agriculture and nutrition programs over the next five years. House Republican leadership supported the legislation, which led many to think it would pass.

“There’s a lot of work ahead of us. That much we know,” said Woody Barth, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union.

Doyle Johannes, an Underwood, N.D., farmer and president of the North Dakota Farm Bureau, said he expected the House to approve it.

“We thought there was a good chance (of approval) this time,” he said.

Jason Mewes, a Colgate, N.D., farmer and president of the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association, also expected House passage.

“Personally, I thought it would pass on a close vote. I’m disappointed for soybean growers that it didn’t,” he said.

The U.S. Senate passed its own version of the farm bill, the centerpiece of U.S. farm and food policy, earlier this month. Mewes noted that if the House version had passed, the House and Senate versions would have gone to a conference committee where differences in the two pieces of legislation would have been reconciled.

“We were looking forward to it going to conference committee,” Mewes said.

Mewes also noted that the Senate passed a farm bill in 2012, too, with the House later rejecting its own version of the legislation.

“This is the second time it’s happened in the House,” he said.

Mewes was uncertain of what supporters of a new farm bill will do next.

Some area farm group leaders have been working for nearly two years on legislation.

Now, supporters of a new farm bill will need to consider their options, although it’s not immediately clear what they are, Barth said.

What is certain, however, is that “we have our work cut out for us,” he said.

President Doug Peterson of Minnesota Farmers Union said the House “failed” America’s farmers.

Minnesota’s corn farmers are disappointed, President Tom Haag of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association said.

“This farm bill would have reduced our country’s deficit, made necessary reforms to farm policy and strengthened risk management tools available to farmers that protect the nation’s food supply,” Haag said. “In the end, it appears that farmers got caught in the middle of another partisan political battle where nobody – especially farmers – came out a winner.”


Forum News Service reporter Don Davis and Reuters news service

contributed to this story