U.S. Rep. Bill Owens joined a bipartisan effort last week to keep the House from adjourning until Sept. 10, but he's not confident that will result in a vote on the 2012 Farm Bill.
The House will continue to meet periodically for the next five weeks or so, but Owens said he doesn't think any significant legislation will be voted on during that period.
"I voted against adjournment because we have a limited amount of time to finish our work on the Farm Bill," he said in a prepared statement. "Federal agriculture programs critical to New York farmers will expire at the end of September. It is unacceptable for the House to leave Washington without approving its version of the bill so that negotiations may begin between the House and Senate on a final version to send to the President. I urge (House) Speaker (John) Boehner to call the full House back to work, and both parties to work together to get this done."
Rep. Bill Owens, left, and Matt Doheny
(Enterprise file photos)
Boehner, R-Ohio, was in Lake George on Friday to raise funds for Owens' opponent in this fall's election, Matt Doheny. Over the weekend, the Republican businessman from Watertown told the Watertown Daily Times he would vote for the Farm Bill in its current form and hopes it could be strengthened through House and Senate negotiations. Previously, Owens' campaign staff had prodded Doheny to take a position on the bill that came out of the House Agriculture Committee, which Owens is on.
Owens voted against a measure last week to provide disaster relief to drought-stricken farmers. Owens told the Enterprise the bill was focused on the "mid-west and far-west" and didn't include relief for New York farmers impacted by major storms last year.
The bipartisan House Agriculture Committee approved the Farm Bill in early July. In a recent letter to the editor published in the Enterprise, New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton said farmers are anxious about the bill and hope Congress will act before the current legislation expires at the end of September.
"That is the bill which farmers are asking be voted on," Owens said. "Like all bills, not everybody supports it. But a significant majority does and wants to put it out there so it can be put to conference committee with the Senate.
Owens said farmers are concerned that election year politics are standing in the way of a bipartisan bill.
"The GOP leadership refused to bring it to the floor for a vote," he said. "That's got a lot of people very upset, including many of my Republican colleagues. They've not publicly said it, but I believe that it's not coming up for a vote because they don't have enough GOP votes to pass it and they don't want to do it on a bipartisan basis."
The Senate passed its version of the bill on June 21.