Thursday Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) voted in the Senate Agriculture Committee to approve the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, a bipartisan farm bill that will save taxpayers almost $25 billion over the next ten years.“The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry has made important progress in reforming outdated farm programs,” said Lugar. “Hoosier farmers need some certainty, and I am happy to see that the farm bill process will move forward. I will continue to work to improve this bill by seeking additional reforms to farm and nutrition programs and more savings for taxpayers.”
Lugar commended the Committee for including a number of proposals he had advocated as part of his Rural Economic Farm and Ranch Sustainability and Hunger (REFRESH) Act. These included a strengthening of the federal crop insurance program; the elimination of direct payments and counter-cyclical payments; a reduction in the size of land idling programs; and consolidation and streamlining of several conservation programs. In addition, an amendment offered by Lugar and Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) to enhance rural energy programs was adopted by the Committee.
However, Lugar vowed to continue to advocate for additional reforms in U.S. farm and nutrition programs. Lugar has targeted the U.S. sugar program with an amendment to be offered on the Senate floor, explaining that “Government manipulation to increase U.S. sugar prices is driving jobs across the border and taxing American consumers. Continuing handouts to Big Sugar costs private sector jobs at a time when the farm bill should be enhancing job growth.”
Lugar also noted that much more work is needed to reduce waste and improve efficiency in food and nutrition programs, which account for more than 75 percent of annual farm bill spending. “By closing loopholes in the food stamp program that grant eligibility to some who are not truly needy, we could still meet legitimate hunger and nutrition needs and also fulfill our budgetary obligations,” Lugar said. “I am pleased that the Committee incorporated some of my REFRESH Act reform provisions, but we must do more,” Lugar said. “I will continue to work with the Committee, with other Senators on the floor, and with my REFRESH Act partner Congressman Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) in the House Agriculture Committee to realize additional taxpayer savings.”