Senate Ag Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow launched the debate by stressing what the Farm Bill does, “We get rid of unnecessary subsidies, like the Direct Payments program that sends a check out to people regardless of whether they’re even farming a crop. We are streamlining programs to cut red tape, cracking down on fraud and abuse, and eliminating more than 100 unnecessary programs and authorizations. And altogether, including the cuts that took effect already this year, we are able to cut spending by $24 billion.”
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid praised the bipartisan work of the ag committee for bringing a bill to the floor that has support on both sides of the aisle, “Democrats and Republicans disagree on many things. So it’s really remarkable and encouraging to see how well Senators Stabenow and Senator Cochran – the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee – worked together to bring the agriculture jobs bill to the floor. Their work has been exemplary – some would say old-fashioned – the way things used to be.”
While there remains disagreement on many of the amendments, there is generally support for the new approach the bill takes to farm policy. American Farm Bureau Federation Public Policy Director Dale Moore said the bill truly takes a new approach to farm policy, “I would say it’s a significant philosophy change particularly when you look at the three previous farm bills centered around the direct payment approach and some other provisions for the safety net. All of those provisions are gone.” Moore says there is a greater appreciation in Washington today on how important the Farm Bill is, “There are provisions in this farm bill that address the needs of those who are less fortunate than a lot of us, providing food for families in every corner of the country. At the same time there are provisions in there that help farmers with their conservation efforts. The co-benefit of that to the public at-large: improved water quality, improved soil erosion protection, improved wildlife habitat. All of those things accrue out of the farm bill and I think at it’s core, what the farm bill does is helps make sure that the agricultural producers all across this country continue to be able to supply us with an affordable, abundant, safe array of all kinds of crops, commodities, food products.”
On Tuesday, an amendment to restore cuts in the nutrient program by cutting funding for crop insurance was defeated. But this is just the first of dozens of battles yet to come.