Congress won't vote on a new Farm Bill until after the Nov. 6 election.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced Thursday morning that the House wouldn't act on the five-year bill until the two-month lame duck session in November and December. It's not clear what the House will do instead of passing a new bill, since the current legislation expires at the end of the month.
U.S. Reps. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, and Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, and both of Owens' congressional opponents expressed disappointment with the news.
"Members of both parties came together to pass a Farm Bill in the Senate, and members of both parties came together on the House Agriculture Committee to pass a bill," Owens said in a prepared statement. "It is wholly unacceptable that House Leadership has blocked that bill from consideration by the full House. In light of this decision, I urge House Leadership in the strongest terms to put the Farm Bill that the House Agriculture Committee passed up for a vote when Congress returns in November."
Watertown businessman Matt Doheny, who is on the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines in this fall's race for New York's new 21st Congressional District, said in an email that farmers and families have become "pawns in election-year politics.
"After realizing there are too many on the far left and far right who do not support this bill, politicians decided to point fingers instead of sit at the table and find common ground," Doheny said. "This is another sad chapter in an ongoing saga about the lack of real solutions coming out of Congress."
Green Party candidate Don Hassig of Colton, who runs the advocacy group Cancer Action NY and grew up on a family farm in St. Lawrence County, told the Enterprise that failure to vote on the Farm Bill reflects a legislative paralysis that's become too common in Congress. He said other issues, like Social Security and budget reform, as well as energy conservation legislation, have fallen prey to inaction in Washington.
"The paralysis is caused by many factors, two of the most powerful being corporate control of government and partisanship," Hassig said. "If Congress was truly about representing the American people, these two factors would not exist. The truth is that Congress is controlled by corporate interests to the extent that Congress is the corporations. Partisanship results from two opposing teams of corporate pawns.
"This is all so awful. I feel like screaming sometimes, but stifle this human urge so as to behave in a socially acceptable manner. Inside, I scream, and it makes me stronger in my determination to bring an end to corporate control of government."
Owens and Gibson joined members of both major political parties last week in urging House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, to take action on the Farm Bill. The two upstate congressmen helped bring a public hearing on the 2012 Farm Bill to Saranac Lake earlier this year.
"Whether Members support or oppose the Farm Bill, we believe the House should be allowed to vote so that we can be held accountable to those we represent," the letter to Cantor reads.
The House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the bill with bipartisan support in June. Owens said the bill renews farm and food programs that are "critical to New York agriculture."
Hassig also renewed his call for the Farm Bill to address farm animal protection. He said if Congress must delay action on the bill, lawmakers should draft animal protection measures.
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.