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Stunning farm bill defeat lays bare House dysfunction

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But without an incredible turn of events, a farm bill that lawmakers in both chambers herald as a jobs bill for rural America looks to be dead for the 113th Congress.

The farm bill, 80 percent of which is devoted to federal food support known as SNAP, is a complex beast of legislation. The bill pits regional agricultural interests against one another and creates competition between farmers and processors of agricultural products. Moreover, in recent years, it has drawn the ire of conservative lawmakers and outside groups who say the bill has become too broad in order to appeal to different groups – combining the nutrition programs vital to urban legislators and the farm support subsidies and insurance dear to rural lawmakers. (They add that the subsidies distort the free market, to boot.)

While it looked like Representatives Lucas and Peterson had found a way to stitch together a bill, it all fell apart Thursday afternoon.

The disappointment is two years in the making.

Last year, House leadership refused to bring a farm bill to the floor, fearing both that it didn’t have the votes to pass and that it could expose Republicans to criticisms from their conservative colleagues during an election year. (The Senate, however, managed to pass a farm bill by a large bipartisan margin.)

This year, about 60 Republicans quit their caucus and pulled against the bill, versus only 24 Democrats who voted in favor, sinking the measure.

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