WASHINGTON — Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, saw several of his amendments fall by the wayside Wednesday without debate as the House launched a marathon session on legislation that would overhaul the nation’s farm and nutrition policies.
The House agreed to consider only half of more than 200 amendments members offered to the chamber’s proposed new farm bill.
Among those chopped were four offered by Cotton as cost-saving measures with the backing of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.
Cotton’s amendments would:
—Eliminate a proposed tax on marble, travertine and other natural stone that would pay for a federal marketing program.
—Eliminate funding for nutrition education programs.
—Drop a USDA study for a federal definition of honey.
—Continue the current block on establishing a fresh-cut Christmas tree promotion program.
The Heritage Foundation last week included the four programs among 20 that it said expose the "noxious nature" of the farm bill.
"We applaud Congressman Cotton and what he is doing," said Michael Needham, chief executive officer of Heritage Action for America, the advocacy arm of the think tank.
The House Rules Committee agreed Tuesday night to allow 103 amendments for debate on the farm bill. The House voted in favor of the debate rule Wednesday, 239-172.
Steve Ellis, vice president of the group Taxpayers for Common Sense, complained Wednesday that some of the amendments left off the table would have reduced needless spending.
"In a cynical maneuver not in keeping with the speaker’s direction, the Rules Committee structured the amendment process in an attempt to ensure that the least possible reform would happen," Ellis said.
One amendment proposed by Cotton did survive for debate that would clarify the types of commercial harvesting and other projects that the U.S. Forest Service can delegate to state foresters under the farm bill.
Cotton did not make himself available to discuss his amendments on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The American Honey Producer’s Association is opposed to eliminating funding for the federal definition of honey, saying it could deal "a crushing blow" to the industry.
Mark Jensen, who chairs AHPA’s legislative committee, said that the study would help keep impure and tainted honey from reaching American consumers — particularly illegal Chinese honey that still enters the country despite a 2001 anti-dumping order.
"Congressman Cotton’s proposed amendment would set back a lot of hard work AHPA has done over the years," said Jensen, a honey producer from Montana.
U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, has two amendments that will be considered during the farm bill debate that focus on Environmental Protection Agency regulations of farms.
One amendment would exempt many small farmers from having to comply with stricter EPA regulations of above-ground oil tanks. A second would block EPA from disclosing private information of farmers and ranchers.
"It is the job of Congress to ensure that regulatory agencies are working on behalf of the American people, not the other way around," Crawford said.