The House of Representatives Thursday passed the Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act of 2012 (H.R. 6233) with a vote of 223-197, just one day before August recess.
The bill re-authorizes Livestock Indemnity Payments, the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish, and the Tree Assistance Program.
Both Reps. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Collin Peterson, D-Minn., stood behind the disaster bill, but were adamant that a complete Farm Bill was a better option.
"What we are doing is fixing a problem, we are backfilling a hole. We have a drought, we don't have a disaster program and I'm here to provide a solution," Lucas said during debate on the floor. He explained that the program gives more than $250 million to deficit reduction.
Addressing concern from many about conservation program cuts to fund of the disaster aid, Lucas said he wasn't any too excited, but he said spending in those areas has been heavy in previous years.
Peterson, too, said the conservation cuts were a concern, and he blamed the rush to put together disaster assistance for the funding approach.
"If there was more time, maybe we could find a better way to do this," Peterson said. "The rush in putting this bill together didn't give us the necessary time to explore all the options."
A major sticking point of many congress members, including Lucas and Peterson, was the inability of House leadership to bring up the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act for a full House vote.
Peterson said bipartisan bills passed by the Senate are hard to come by, and urged support for the House Agriculture Committee-passed bill.
"This may be the only time we can get a farm bill through the Senate, and now the leadership doesn't want to bring it up. I don't get it," Peterson said. He called the disaster assistance a "sad substitute for what is really needed: a long-term farm policy."
Lucas also said the five year bill is not out of sight yet, and explained that though there is some disagreement, passing the bill is his priority.
"The bill is not perfect. No legislation is," Lucas said. But, he explained that time could be spent splitting bills apart, but reminded lawmakers that his Farm Bill saves $35 billion.
"This is the perfect case of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good," Lucas said.