Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published September 14, 2012, 09:20 AM

House members sign discharge petition to move farm bill to the floor

WASHINGTON — Thirty-nine House members including Republican Reps. Rick Berg of North Dakota, Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Dennis Rehberg of Montana signed the discharge petition to move the farm bill to the House floor on Sept. 13, only hours after Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, moved it.

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Agweek

WASHINGTON — Thirty-nine House members including Republican Reps. Rick Berg of North Dakota, Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Dennis Rehberg of Montana signed the discharge petition to move the farm bill to the House floor on Sept. 13, only hours after Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, moved it.

A majority of House members would have to sign the petition to force the House leadership to bring up the House Agriculture Committee-passed farm bill on the floor for consideration. Discharge petitions rarely work, but they sometimes force House leaders to bring up a bill to avoid the embarrassment of a display of opposition.

Nine Republicans joined 30 Democrats in signing the petition the first day it was available.

Noem has come under pressure from her re-election race Democratic opponent, Matt Varilek to show support for the farm bill. Berg’s opponent in a Senate race, Heidi Heitkamp, has questioned his commitment to pushing the farm bill. Rehberg is in a tight Senate race with Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.

Democrats include Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who is running for the Senate.

A spokeswoman for Braley said the list would be revised as more members sign the petition. Braley complained in a news release that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had used procedural maneuvers to delay the discharge petition for 65 days.

“Now that we, a group of Democrats and Republicans, have filed this discharge petition, and it’s available for signatures, we’ll see who really supports the Farm Bill Now (a reference to the organized campaign to finish the farm bill this year.)”

It’s unclear how many House members will sign the petition, since Republicans would be seen as bucking the leadership. House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said in August he feared that the discharge petition could be divisive and hurt efforts to bring up the bill.

Boehner canceled a news conference Sept. 14 at which he was expected to be asked about the farm bill. A Boehner spokesman noted to reporters that the discharge petition had been filed and was available for signature, but said questions about it should go to the Democrats.

The American Soybean Association said Sept. 14 it supports the petition and is encouraging House members to sign it.

“While the discharge petition advanced today by Congressman Braley is certainly an unorthodox tactic, we are now forced to support this drastic measure,” ASA President Steve Wellman, a Syracuse, Neb., farmer, said in a statement.

“Farmers have been told we haven’t expressed enough concern about the lack of new farm legislation,” he said. “For weeks, we’ve been told there isn’t enough time to pass the bill. We’ve been told that a one-year extension or a piecemeal disaster bill will cover our needs in the interim.

“Our clear reply to Congress is that the only acceptable outcome is a full, five-year farm bill passed through the House before Sept. 30,” Wellman said. “If it takes Congressman Braley’s petition to make that happen, we’re behind it, and we encourage every member of the House that has a stake in ensuring certainty for America’s farmers to sign it.”

Tags: