After a 4 month hiatus, Congress will resume work on a new Farm Bill this week. The Senate Ag Committee will begin its markup on Tuesday with the House Ag committee beginning on Wednesday. Kent Yeager with Indiana Farm Bureau believes there is more willingness to pass a new Farm Bill this year than last, “Nobody wants to see another extension, which is where we will be headed without a new Farm Bill. That does not accomplish anything for anybody.” The Senate version looks very much like the bill that was passed last fall, but Chandler Goule with the National Farmers Union says there have been some key changes made to the commodity title, “Title one includes a shallow loss approach that was part of the bill passed by the committee last year, but also includes target prices that the committee opposed last year – but that gained new support with the accession of Mississippi’s Thad Cochran to the panel’s Top GOP slot on the committee.”
A measure in the Senate plan that is already sparking controversy is placing restrictions on eligibility for crop insurance. Mary Kay Thatcher with American Farm Bureau Federation said farm groups and environmentalists have come up a better idea, “We’ve come up with what we think is a very workable alternative which would not limit eligibility and which would have crop insurance tied to making sure you weren’t breaking up highly erodible land or plowing up wetlands. But if you did have an accident and something happened, maybe you drained a ditch a little bit deeper than you should have, you would have two years to mitigate that problem.”
On the other side of Capitol Hill, the House Ag Committee has released its own draft version of a new Farm Bill. House Ag Committee Chair Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson have released a discussion draft of the bill that cuts spending, reduces the size of government, and makes “common-sense” reforms. According to Lucas, “The bill is responsible and balanced.” He says it addresses Americans’ concerns about federal spending and reforms farm and nutrition policy to improve efficiency and accountability. Peterson says the draft closely resembles the bipartisan bill the House Agriculture Committee passed last summer. But, he says the bottom line is that this is the first step in the process and that it’s past time to pass a five-year Farm Bill.
It is obvious that a lot of work behind the scenes has been done and that a lot of compromising has already taken place. Many of the key elements of both the House and Senate versions look very similar. In the end, however, Yeager says it is non-farm programs that will determine if the Farm Bill passes or not, “Ultimate passage of the Farm Bill will have more to do with programs that feed people than with the 20% of the bill that impacts farmers.” Early farm group reaction to both the House and Senate versions has been generally positive.
Follow Hoosier Ag Today for coverage of the Farm Bill mark up sessions this week.
Summary of House and Senate Farm Bills
The Senate’s bipartisan 2013 Farm Bill represents the most significant reform of American agriculture policy in decades.
With the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, the era of direct payments is over. Instead of subsidies that pay out every year even in good
times, the bill creates risk management tools that support farmers when they are negatively impacted by weather disaster or market events
beyond their control.
By ending unnecessary subsidies, streamlining and consolidating programs and cracking down on abuse, the bill reduces the deficit by
billions. Passing the Farm Bill will yield a total of $23 billion in cuts to agriculture programs (including cuts made due to the sequester).
$23 billion is over double the amount the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission ($10 billion) and Gang of Six ($11 billion) recommended in total
Agriculture is a bright spot in America’s economy. The Senate’s 2013 Farm Bill strengthens top priorities that help farmers, ranchers and small
business owners create jobs.
The current Farm Bill expires September 30 . A new Farm Bill must be passed this year to provide farmers the certainty they need to keep
driving our economic recovery.
Sixteen million jobs hang in the balance.
Last year’s similar Senate Farm Bill passed the Senate with a wide bipartisan vote, 64-35. The Farm Bill is broadly supported by Democrats and
Republicans across the country for its major reforms, common sense deficit reduction and strengthened job creation initiatives.
Major Reform: Ending Direct Payments; Creating Responsible Risk Management
Farmers face unique risks unlike other businesses. Weather and market conditions outside a producer’s control can have devastating effects.
Responsible risk management tools help ensure that farmers – and farm jobs – are not wiped out by disasters, and protect all American families
from sudden spikes in food prices.
thHowever, for too long farm programs have existed as subsidies that provide payments even when farmers are already doing well. The 2013
Senate Farm Bill reforms farm programs to save taxpayer dollars, while providing farmers with a responsible risk management system that only
helps farmers when they experience substantial losses due to events beyond their control. This proposal:
Eliminates direct payments. Farmers will no longer receive payments when prices are rising and support is not needed. Ending these
subsidies and creating responsible risk management is a major shift in American farm policy
Caps remaining risk management support at $50,000 per person
Ends Farm Payments to Non-Farmers. This bill closes the “management loophole,” through which people who were not actually farming
—in many cases not even setting foot on the farm—were designated as farm “managers” so they could receive farm payments
Strengthens crop insurance and expands access so farmers are not wiped out by bad weather
Includes disaster relief for producers hurt by drought, spring freeze, and other weather disasters
Reforming farm programs, ending direct payments and implementing market-oriented programs to help farmers manage risk saves $16
billion dollars ($12 billion in the bill, $4 billion through sequestration)
Consolidating and Streamlining Programs
By eliminating duplicative programs, funds are concentrated in the areas in which they will have the greatest impact, reducing the deficit while
strengthening top priorities. The Senate Farm Bill eliminates over 100 programs and authorizations under the Agriculture Committee’s
jurisdiction. For example:
The bill consolidates 23 existing conservation programs into 13 programs—while maintaining existing tools to protect and
conserve land, water and wildlife
Streamlining programs provides added flexibility and focuses conservation around four primary functions: working lands conservation, the
Conservation Reserve Program, regional partnerships, and easements to help prevent sprawl and protect wetlands
These reforms save money while still increasing resources for top priorities
Because we are truly doing more with less, changes to conservation policies are supported by nearly 650 conservation organizations
from all 50 states
Improving Program Accountability
At a time when many out-of-work Americans are in need of food assistance for the first time in their lives, it is more critical than ever that every
dollar go to families in need. By closing loopholes, cracking down on abuse and improving program integrity, the Farm Bill reduces the deficit
without cutting standard benefits or removing any needy family from the program. The Senate Farm Bill increases accountability in the
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by: .
Stopping lottery winners from continuing to receive assistancePreventing states from providing $1 per year in home heating assistance to individuals who do not have a heating bill for the sole purpose
of providing extra benefits above what they would normally receive
Ending misuse by college students whose families are not truly low-income
Cracking down on retailers and recipients engaged in benefit trafficking
Increasing requirements to prevent liquor and tobacco stores from accepting food assistance benefits
The above savings reduce the deficit while continuing support for food banks, seniors’ food programs and healthy school lunch
Continuing Growth in America’s Diverse Agricultural Economy
The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act increases efficiency and accountability, saving tens of billions of dollars overall, while still
strengthening agricultural jobs initiatives through:
Export opportunities to help farmers find new global markets for their goods
Help for family farmers to sell locally, increasing support for farmers’ markets and spurring the creation of food hubs to connect farmers
to schools and other community-based organizations
Training and access to capital to make it easier for beginning farmers to get off the ground
Initiatives to help American veterans start agriculture businesses
Growth in bio-based manufacturing (businesses producing goods in America from raw agricultural products grown in America) to create
rural agriculture and urban manufacturing jobs
Innovation in bio-energy production, supporting non-food based advanced biomass energy production such as cellulosic ethanol and
woody biomass power
Research to promote the commercialization of new agricultural innovations
Rural development initiatives to help rural communities upgrade infrastructure, extend broadband internet availability and create a
better environment for small businesses
You can find a copy of the legislative text here:
The House Farm Bill summary
Savings of nearly 40-billion dollars in mandatory funds, including the immediate sequestration of six-billion
Repeal or consolidation of more than 100 programs
Elimination of direct payments, which farmers received regardless of market conditions
Streamlining and reforming commodity policy, saving nearly 14-billion dollars while also giving producers a choice in how best to manage risk
Inclusion of the first reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) since the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, saving more than 20-billion dollars
Consolidation of 23 conservation programs into 13, improving program delivery to producers and saving more than six-billion dollars
Building on previous investments to fruit and vegetable production, farmers markets and local food systems.
Inclusion of several regulatory relief measures to help mitigate burdens farmers, ranchers and rural communities face
The full text of the bill is available athttps://agriculture.house.gov/sites/republicans.agriculture.house.gov/files/farm%20bill/FARRMBillChairsMark2013.pdf]