The House passed the farm bill conference report by a vote of 318-106 today (May 14), giving farm organizations a major victory over the national news media and environmental and social activist groups who waged a war against it.

If House leaders can hold it together, the vote in favor should be sufficient for the House to override a threatened presidential veto. The Senate is expected to vote on the conference report tomorrow, and the bill could arrive on the president’s desk by next Tuesday (May 20).

An ebullient Collin Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and the floor manager for the bill in the House, declined to speculate on whether the president will follow through on the administration’s oft-repeated veto threats.

“I’m not into speculating on what the White House will do – I just don’t want to talk about that now,” said Peterson, D-Minn. “I don’t know the previous numbers, but this has to be one of the biggest votes for a farm bill in a long time.”

Peterson assembled an unusual group of speakers for the mandatory post-vote press briefing that included House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel and Rep. Rosa de Lauro, D-Conn.

Saying he didn’t know when he had been to so many “funerals” for a piece of legislation that was given up for dead several times, Rangel called the conference report “an exercise in showing what Congress can do when it works together.”

Farm organizations began lining up to praise House and Agriculture Committee leaders for their passage of the conference report, the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008.

“This is a good bill that addresses many of the challenges Americans face every day,” said National Farmers Union President Tom Buis who was singled out by Peterson for his aid in passing the bill. “Today’s vote is a demonstration of the widespread support for this bill.”

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin also congratulated House Democrats and Republicans for their bipartisan efforts to bring the long-awaited bill a step closer to enactment.

“The House passage of the farm bill conference report on a strong, bipartisan basis demonstrates support for core farm bill initiatives – conservation, energy, nutrition and rural development – while continuing and strengthening farm income protection,” said Harkin.

“This bill benefits every American, from our smallest towns to our biggest cities, urban and rural residents, farmers and non-farmers. I now look forward to the Senate approving the measure with a strong vote.”

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