Federal Relations

Senate Passes Bipartisan Farm Bill

This evening, the Senate passed S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013, by a vote of 66 to 27. Eighteen Republican Senators voted for the measure. Last Thursday, the Senate voted 75  to 22 to invoke cloture (limit further debate) on the bill and members of the Senate unanimously agreed that the only amendment remaining in order to the bill would be an amendment regarding rural broadband internet access. Although there were 260 amendments filed to the bill, only a few dozen were actually considered. Thursday’s agreement also precluded Democrats and Republicans from crafting a package of amendments that could be made to the bill prior to final passage.

Title VII of bill, as passed by the Senate this evening, includes most of the reauthorizations and programmatic “tweaks” higher education sought with respect to research, extension, and higher education programs administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). It also includes mandatory funding (not subject to annual appropriations) for five NIFA-administered programs and establishes a new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research with $200 million in mandatory funds for this new 501(c)(3) organization.

For additional information about the Senate bill, see: www.land-grant.org/reports/2013/CLP/05-16.htm

The House is expected to consider H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, later this month. Both House Major Leader Eric Cantor and Speaker John Boehner have expressed their willingness to bring the Farm Bill to the floor under a rule that will permit spirited debate. The Speaker issued a news release today, encouraging House members to move the bill ahead saying: “If you have ideas on how to make the bill better, bring them forward. Let’s have the debate, and let’s vote on them.”

The House bill includes most of higher education’s many requests reauthorization requests for the NIFA. It House bill also provides mandatory funds for three programs administered by NIFA. Although major floor amendments to the Research and Extension Title (Title VII) of the bill are not expected at this time, the situation is extremely fluid. There are additional provisions involving NIFA-related proposals (as agreed upon by the BAA’s Committee on Legislation and Policy) that are being monitored for inclusion on the floor or later in the process depending on the situation.

UW’s College of the Environment receives NIFA funds and the Office of Federal Relations is tracking the progress of the Farm Bill closely.