Noem expected to help craft farm bill compromise

By Christopher Doering, Gannett Washington Bureau

Republican Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota is expected to be among lawmakers chosen to work on a House-Senate conference committee crafting a farm bill.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, will name the House conferees Friday. The Senate conferees already have been announced. The joint panel is tasked with merging the House and Senate farm bills into a final version to be voted on by both chambers.

Noem, the state’s lone representative in the House, was hesitant to acknowledge reports of her involvement.

“I think some of those lists are fairly accurate, but we’ll have to see what the official list is tomorrow when we hear from the speaker’s office,” Noem told reporters. “I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize my potential involvement in being part of the ongoing discussions.”

South Dakota has not had a House member be on the farm bill conference committee since then-Rep. Tim Johnson in 1996.  South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle, who was majority leader, was on the panel in 2002.

“Rep. Noem has worked very hard to get the farm bill to this point and has made it clear to the speaker that she wants to stay closely involved going forward,” said Jordan Stoick, Noem’s chief of staff. “I think South Dakota’s agriculture producers will feel they are well represented as this process continues.”

Noem, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said lawmakers in Washington need to keep pushing for a five-year farm bill. The need was heightened following the storm that dumped nearly four feet of snow in some parts of western South Dakota earlier this month. The record-breaking storm left thousands without power, and ranchers are now bracing for a major loss in their cattle herds.

The USDA was given authority to operate livestock disaster assistance programs in the 2008 farm bill, but the authority expired on Sept. 30, 2011. A new farm bill would have to be signed into law to restore that assistance.

The most recent farm bill expired on Sept. 30, ending several food aid, rural development and agricultural programs, among others. Popular programs for food stamps, subsidy payments and crop insurance remain in place.

The more pressing deadline comes on Jan. 1 when a 1949 farm law requires that subsidy prices begin to increase, starting with dairy payments. That could double the price consumers pay for milk to $7 a gallon. Wheat and other commodities would be affected later in 2014.

The biggest divide between the House and Senate is on funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program. In June, the Democrat-controlled Senate approved a reduction of $4.5 billion over a decade, while the Republican-led House recently passed a reduction of $40 billion.

Noem: Boehner will appoint farm bill conference committee

Even as Congress is deadlocked over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling, it may be moving forward on a long-delayed piece of policy: a farm bill.

Rep. Kristi Noem announced Tuesday afternoon that House Speaker John Boehner gave her personal assurances he’d appoint a conference committee next week to negotiate a final farm bill with the Senate.

The Senate passed its farm bill in June. A few weeks later, the House of Representatives rejected a full farm bill. GOP leaders then split the farm bill in two, passing a farm-only portion in July and a nutrition bill in September that contained steep cuts to the food stamp program.

Noem opposed splitting the bill in two, but has said she expects the conference committee to negotiate a compromise farm bill between the two chambers’ positions.

The big question was whether, and when, such a conference committee would be appointed.

Now Noem says that’ll be soon. A statement from the congresswoman:

I spoke this morning at our weekly Republican meeting and described to my colleagues the devastation in western South Dakota that has resulted from the weekend storm. The lack of a comprehensive Farm Bill leaves all of our producers without the certainty they need.  This is especially true for our livestock producers who are currently without the protection of a livestock disaster program. After further conversations with the Speaker today, I appreciate him confirming that he plans to move forward and appoint conferees within the next week.  We need to move quickly to get a five-year Farm Bill completed.

The announcement comes just a few hours after Sen. John Thune, in a somewhat unusual move, publicly called on his fellow Republican leader, House Speaker John Boehner, to appoint a farm bill conference committee

Noem blasts GOP leadership over farm bill

Politico this morning reports on an internal House Republican meeting where tensions erupted over the failure of the Farm Bill — and that Rep. Kristi Noem was in the thick of it:

Republican Reps. Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota separately stood up at a GOP meeting Wednesday and confronted their leadership about its bumbling legislative strategy and inability to figure out a way forward on the massive legislation, according to multiple sources at the meeting.

Noem, who once served in Republican leadership, took aim squarely at Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). She reminded him that he controls the House floor, and she drilled Cantor hard on his precise plans to mop up the mess, several Republicans who attended the meeting said. Cantor wasn’t able to outline a plan that satisfied Noem, and he blamed Democrats for the bill’s defeat.

Noem — usually a quiet figure in GOP circles — also warned the 61 Republicans who opposed the farm bill after voting for tougher work requirements for food-stamp recipients that she will not be supporting them in the future. Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and other lawmakers were later heard on the floor backing Noem in her heated dispute with Cantor.

Read the rest of the story here.

Noem: both parties share farm bill blame, but mostly Democrats

Rep. Kristi Noem pronounced herself shocked and disappointed by the defeat Thursday of a five-year farm bill in the U.S. House.

"A majority of lawmakers failed to do the right thing," Noem said. "That failure to pass this farm bill (means) that status quo goes forward."

And whose fault is the farm bill’s defeat? The measure got support from 73 percent of Republicans and 12 percent of Democrats, with some Republicans feeling the farm bill didn’t cut food stamps enough, and Democrats arguing it cut food stamps too much. Ultimately it fell more than 30 votes short of passage.

Noem said both sides contributed to the bill’s failure, but pointed her finger primarily at the other side of the aisle.

"Both Republicans and Democrats today share the blame for this outcome," Noem said.

But Democrats told Republicans they “would have more votes for the bill” than actually appeared, she said. The amendment process cost the bill some support, but she said a bigger factor was President Barack Obama’s late-game opposition.

"The president came out this week saying he’d veto that, but he didn’t just do that. He worked his members (against the farm bill)," Noem said.

What’s next? Noem didn’t know. She didn’t answer a question about whether Republicans might try to either make the food stamp cuts steeper to get more GOP votes, or water them down to bring more Democrats on board. One possibility would be to pass an extension of the last farm bill, which Noem said she doesn’t like. But it’s possible, Noem said, that an extension could be used as a vehicle to bring a farm bill to a conference committee with the Senate.

For now, though, GOP leaders were too stunned to start plotting their next move.

"I don’t think anybody was really in a chatty mood after the bill failed," Noem said. "They were extremely disappointed."

Farm bill flops in House


The farm bill just failed 195-234 on the floor of the House, caught between a rock and a hard place: 62 Republicans voted no because it didn’t cut food stamps enough, while 172 Democrats voted no because it cut food stamps too much.

Rep. Kristi Noem voted for the bill, as did House GOP leaders like Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor. But with Democrats not playing ball, enough Republicans broke with leadership to sink the bill.

The House could probably pass a farm bill if Boehner were willing to do it with Democratic votes, by shifting the bill to the left. But that could both imperil his leadership, and go against his principles if he is seriously concerned by the growth in food stamp spending.

Noem is talking to the South Dakota press this afternoon and she’ll be sure to face a lot of questions on the future of the farm bill.

It’s official: no farm bill until at least November

House Speaker John Boehner has confirmed what has seemed increasingly likely for a long time: there will be no vote on the farm bill until at least after the election:

Mr. Boehner said the House would deal with the farm bill after the election. He declined to answer follow up questions from a reporter at a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters whether that would mean a multi-year extension, a one-year bill or something else.

Read the Wall Street Journal’s story here.

What impact will this have on Rep. Kristi Noem’s reelection battle? It certainly doesn’t help her, but will this be what Varilek needs to persuade South Dakota voters to dump Noem? Or will it just be a bump in the road on a cruise to reelection?

Don’t forget to read my story on what happens if when the farm bill expires.

What happens if the farm bill expires?

As the Sept. 30 expiration of the 2008 farm bill ticks closer with the House of Representatives seemingly no closer to bringing the bill to a vote, the obvious question is: what happens next?

That’s the question I tried to answer in today’s Argus Leader. Read my article here. (There’s also an update on the status of the farm bill by our Washington, D.C. correspondent.)

The short answer: some bad stuff will happen right away, but it won’t be an overall disaster. A lot of the key programs in the farm bill can keep going until at least the end of the calendar year, or even into early next year, even though the bill as a whole expires this month.

(Some of that is because specific provisions have different expiration dates, such as Dec. 31 or the “crop year,” which would go into early 2013. Others are because while the authorizing provision runs out on Sept. 30 with the farm bill, money remains to keep funding those programs for extra months. Apparently the longstanding legal precedent is that “there is no constitutional or statutory requirement that an appropriation must be preceded by an act that authorizes the appropriation.”)

It’s in 2013 that things go south. That’s when the 1949 farm bill could take effect, putting in place, among other things, a program obliging the government to buy farmers’ crops at prices based on how much commodities cost in 1914. In some cases, that could be twice as much or more, costing the government a ton of money and driving up grocery prices. (This would be good news for farmers, insofar as they would get a lot more money for their crops, but none of the farming organizations I talked to want to go here.)

Give the article a read and keep that context in your mind as you follow the saga of the farm bill.

Tags: farm bill

Dueling releases by Noem and Varilek

Seventeen minutes apart, my inbox just received dueling releases on the farm bill from Rep. Kristi Noem’s congressional office and Democratic challenger Matt Varilek’s campaign. They present very different pictures about Noem and the farm bill. Brief excerpts here, then after the jump the full releases.

Noem: “The Farm Bill expires at the end of this month. Getting a new one done is a top priority for me, and it should be a top priority for this Congress. Our farmers and ranchers deserve certainty, and I will keep fighting every day to make sure they get it. From holding leadership’s feet to the fire to schedule a vote, to gathering signatures for the discharge petition and continuing to educate other Members, I will not stop working to get a Farm Bill done for South Dakota.”

Varilek’s campaign: “Congresswoman Noem has been back in Washington, DC for an entire work week and all we have seen from her is political posturing and a lack of real results,” said Varilek campaign manager David Benson. “What is the point of Congresswoman Noem’s role as freshman liaison to the leadership if she cannot convince a single one of her fellow freshmen to sign on to the farm bill discharge petition? And if that wasn’t enough bad news, she’s starting to lose support from members who had previously signed on to force a vote on the farm bill.”

After the jump, the full releases:

Read More

Noem’s farm bill push

Yesterday and today, Rep. Kristi Noem kicked her public pursuit of a vote on the farm bill into overdrive.

Today, she signed the infamous discharge petition to force a vote on the farm bill. Today was the first day the discharge petition could be signed. In July and August, Noem declined to be part of a group of lawmakers taking the lead to round up support for the discharge petition in advance of its availability. But several times she said she would sign it in September if a vote hadn’t yet occurred.

Wednesday morning, she took place in a rally near the Capitol in D.C. with farm-state politicians and farmers to push for the farm bill. Below you’ll find some videos and other information about Noem’s appearance at the rally, pushed out by her congressional office.

Here’s Noem’s speech at the rally:

A New York Times blog story on the event interviews Noem — and quotes her disagreeing with the Democratic attack that she capitulated on the discharge petition to spare the feelings of House leadership, who typically hate discharge petitions:

Some Democrats are now trying to pressure House leadership to allow a vote through something called a “discharge petition” which, if signed by 218 members would force a floor vote.

“I’ll sign it as soon as it’s available,” said Representative Kristi Noem, a freshman Republican from South Dakota. When it was pointed out to her that this would likely greatly upset her party’s leaders, she replied: “I take my orders from my district.”

Noem also announced she had request an urgent meeting with Majority Leader Eric Cantor to discuss the farm bill. Whether that will amount to anything is unclear — Noem has said she’s had regular discussions with Boehner and (to a lesser degree) Cantor about the farm bill over the past two months.

Will this flurry of pressure be enough? Noem’s got a policy imperative — pass the farm bill — and a political imperative — to pass the farm bill or, barring that, convince South Dakota farmers that she did as much as she could to pass the farm bill and no one could have done better.

From diplomacy to the streets

A month ago, Rep. Kristi Noem said she was going to pursue an inside path on trying to get action on the farm bill, avoiding strident, confrontational rhetoric in favor of diplomacy and quiet pressure. Instead of making noise about forcing the House leadership to bring the bill to a vote, she tried to round up signatures from members of Congress on letters and buttonholed people like House Speaker John Boehner one-on-one.

With the House scheduled to be in session for just six more working days before the farm bill expires, that’s now changed.

The congresswoman who was once hesitant to do anything “divisive” is now participating in a “Farm Bill Now” rally on the D.C. Mall.

Occupy the Capitol this isn’t, but it’s a new step for Noem. Over the past month, starting with her appearance with Rep. Rick Berg of North Dakota and continuing at the Dakotafest debate, Noem said she would reconsider the discharge petition she initially backed off from for being too confrontational if the House reconvened with no progress on the farm bill.

That’s now happened. The bigger question is now whether the discharge petition can get majority support in the House — and if it can, if the farm bill itself can pass. Noem has consistently said she believes Boehner when he says the votes aren’t there. Will that be borne out if put to the test on the floor?

Will holding a rally on the Mall be more effective than the velvet glove approach Noem tried over the past two months?

By the end of the month, we’ll know the answer.

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