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Likely a Long Way Yet for New Farm Bill

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Last week the Senate Ag Committee advanced their version of the 2012 Farm Bill and House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas said the Senate’s work was an important first step in the development of the next Farm Bill.

Indiana representative Marlin Stutzman is a member of the House Ag Committee, and he is surprised the Senate has moved so quickly. But the quick movement is a positive sign for a Farm Bill this year.

“I know that I’m open to that because I think it’s important that we give certainty, but it also needs to be the right type of policy as well. So it really depends on what the final product looks like and with the political season upon us, the presidential race, I think we still have a long way to go. But at the same time any movement is really laying the ground work for a Farm Bill for the future, and hopefully people are recognizing the fact that we have huge debt issues that we have to keep in the forefront of our minds as we move forward.”

Stutzman told HAT the House committee is proposing to start scaling the increases in the nutrition program which takes up almost 80 percent of the Farm Bill. And much of the other debate will center on geography.

“There’s a lot of geographical issues that we’re dealing with and you can see that in the Senate Ag Committee vote where some of the southern senators voted against the ag bill coming out of the Senate.”

He expects Ag Committee hearings to begin within the next month.

We’ll probably wait to see that the Farm Bill in the Senate moves off the Senate floor, and if they send it over to the House whether we take up that bill or take up our own particular bill. I think there are several options that could take place. If we take up the Senate’s version if they pass it, or we may take up our own with Chairman Lucas doing a lot of his own initiatives and a lot of the hearings that he’s been a part of. He may feel that is important to start fresh there.”

Lucas agreed that a federal comprehensive Farm Bill, in the Commodity Title, must address all regions and all crops and that everyone should be able to participate. Lucas is disappointed that the Senate bill’s commodity title does not work for all of agriculture. Instead of providing a viable safety net, he says the bill locks in profit for a couple of commodities. The chief priority for Lucas is making certain the commodity title is equitable and provides a safety net for all covered commodities and all regions of the country. He says a shallow loss program is not a safety net, it doesn’t provide protection against price declines over multiple years, and it does not work for all commodities.

Ranking Member of the House Ag Committee Collin Peterson says the Senate Ag Committee’s approval of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 brings us one step closer to having a farm bill in place before the current one expires in September. He says Chair Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Pat Roberts found a bipartisan way to move forward and the full Senate should now take action. He added the House Ag Committee should now move quickly to mark-up a farm bill.

The bipartisan tone set by the Senate mark-up gives Peterson more confidence that a farm bill can be completed this year. While he’s sure there will be differences between the House and Senate bills, Peterson expressed confidence that the differences could be worked out in conference committee.[audio:https://www.hoosieragtoday.com//wp-content/uploads//2012/05/Rep-Stutzman-Farm-Bill-update.mp3|titles=Rep Stutzman Farm Bill update]