WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner had lots to say about many things Tuesday during a forum with members of the Ohio Farm Bureau but little to say about the bureau’s priority legislation: a new Farm Bill.
Boehner did pledge to get a new Farm Bill done and said he expected the Senate to do the same this year.
“We had a very tough time last year getting to a farm bill. We are going to do a farm bill this year. And I expect the Senate will do a farm bill as well,” Boehner said.
County Farm Bureau presidents are traveling this week to the nation’s capital for the Ohio Farm Bureau’s 67th annual education and lobbying week. At the top of the Farm Bureau’s priorities is a new Farm Bill. Farmers want a new five-year bill that addresses safety-net needs, such as crop insurance.
The current bill is an extension of the old one. While the Senate passed a version in 2012, the House did not. Instead, as part of Fiscal Cliff negotiations, Congress extended the old Farm Bill through the end of September. It was the Republican leadership in the House, according to published reports, that refused to bring a farm bill to the floor for a vote in 2012.
This is the 23rd year Boehner, R-West Chester, has hosted a forum for Ohio Farm Bureau. This year, he turned over the organizing duties to Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Washington Township. Boehner served on the House Agriculture Committee for 16 years before he became speaker. Boehner would not offer thoughts on specific farm bill proposals, he said, because the media would report on those thoughts.
Boehner is known to oppose supply management programs, especially for dairy. He said so again Tuesday but otherwise said he would “keep my opinions on the farm bill to myself at this point.”
Boehner said the large fight will be around food stamps and other government nutrition programs that make up 80 percent of the Farm Bill. Eligibility for food stamps was “widened in a significant way” several years ago, he said, and now 18 million more Americans are on food stamps now than four years ago.
“The really big fight will be over how big of changes we’re going to make on the SNAP (food stamp) program,” he said.
Boehner also blamed the Senate and President Barack Obama for the current automatic budget cuts. The House will not be offering new revenue, Boehner said. He said wants to see reforms that will put programs such as Medicare and Social Security on a sustainable path as the massive Baby Boomer generation starts to retire.
“The issue of taxes is over,” Boehner said. “It’s time to deal with the real problem, which is spending. This year, the federal government will bring in more revenue than any year in our history. And we still have a trillion dollar budget deficit.”
The Ohio Farm Bureau finishes its trip today with visits from Ohio’s senators and lobbying calls to Ohio’s House members.