Senate Ag Committee Approves Farm Bill

US - The US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry today voted to approve the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, a bipartisan Farm Bill authored by Committee Chairwoman Senator Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Senator Pat Roberts.
calendar icon 27 April 2012
clock icon 5 minute read

The bill reforms food and agricultural policy by eliminating direct payments and emphasising the need to strengthen risk management tools for farmers, saving billions of dollars. Overall, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 will reduce the deficit by $23 billion dollars by eliminating unnecessary subsidies, consolidating programmes to end duplication, and cracking down on food assistance abuse. These reforms allow for the strengthening of key initiatives that help farmers and small businesses reach new markets and create American jobs. The measure will now go to the full Senate for consideration.

“The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 will save taxpayers billions of dollars while promising a safe and healthy national food supply. By eliminating duplication, and streamlining and consolidating programmes, we were able to continue investing in initiatives that help farmers and small businesses create jobs. This bill proves that by working across party lines, we can save taxpayer money and create smart, cost-effective policies that lay the foundation for a stronger, more prosperous economy. I am proud that once again the Agriculture Committee was able to work together in a bipartisan way to complete major reforms that save money and grow our economy.”

Ms Stabenow continued: “We now look forward to continuing to work with our colleagues in a bipartisan way to ensure we enact a Farm Bill this year before the current one expires. Agriculture supports 16 million jobs in our country, and it is absolutely critical to provide farmers the certainty they need to plan and grow by passing a Farm Bill this year.”

Industry reactions

Jerry Kozak, President and CEO of National Milk Producers Federation said:"The Senate has taken a huge step in the right direction by including the dairy reforms modeled after NMPF's Foundation for the Future programme.

"We commend Senators Stabenow and Roberts for their leadership and diligence in shepherding the farm bill past this point."

Kozak said the dairy title contains a better safety net for farmers in the form of the Dairy Production Margin Protection Program, which offers them a basic level of coverage against low margins, as well as a supplemental insurance plan offering higher levels of protection jointly funded by government and farmers. Those who opt to enroll in the margin program will also be subject to the Market Stabilization program that asks them to reduce milk output when margins are poor.

The Committee approved two amendments to the dairy title of the farm bill: one, offered by Sens. Johanns (R-NE) and Casey (D-PA), that authorizes a review of the Market Stabilization program at the end of the five-year farm bill lifespan; and a second, offered by Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY), that extends the MILC program through June 2013, at a reduced rate, so there is a safety net in place while the USDA implements the new dairy margin insurance program. The bill was not amended in any way that diminishes the value of the margin protection or market stabilization elements, according to Kozak.

"We're very appreciative that members of the Agriculture Committee have preserved the carefully-crafted economic and political compromises that went into the creation of Foundation for the Future. We look forward to working with the full Senate as it considers this legislation later this spring," Kozak said.

AFBF President Bob Stallman delivered a message regarding the 2012 farm bill to Senate Agriculture Committee leaders in a letter following a meeting of the organisation’s board of directors.

Mr Stallman issued a statement regarding the Senate Agriculture Committee's passage of the 2012 farm bill. He said: "The American Farm Bureau Federation is encouraged that the Senate Agriculture Committee approved its bipartisan farm bill and sent it forward to the full Senate for consideration. The bill is not perfect, but it is a suitable policy vehicle with solid framework on which to make further improvements. Certainly, having a bill in place this year is in the best interests of all farmers.

“Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Roberts deserve praise for structuring this legislation with crucial risk management tools for farmers and doing so in a fiscally responsible manner during one of the toughest budget climates our nation has ever faced. The bill also provides a firm foundation for continued cooperative, incentive-based conservation efforts.

“We will continue to seek improvements in several areas as this bill moves forward, particularly in how to provide more equity among commodities, and ways to better address deep, catastrophic losses. Now that this first phase has been completed, we will continue to assist Senators in any way we can to assemble a final Senate bill that addresses the challenges and risks faced by today’s farm families.”

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement after the announcement: “NFU is pleased to see the 2012 Farm Bill voted out of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry in a bipartisan vote. This represents progress toward providing a fiscally responsible farm safety net directed to family farmers and ranchers. The bill’s investment in rural America will create jobs and opportunities for farmers to continue providing energy and conservations benefits to all Americans.

“NFU applauds the passage of the amendment offered by Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and its bipartisan cosponsors, to restore $800 million in mandatory funding for energy programmes. Renewable energy production is at the core of recent rural economic development progress and we appreciate the committee’s leadership. The Conservation Reserve programme (CRP) also received increased funding, ensuring that farmers and ranchers will continue to have the tools necessary to preserve natural resources.

“NFU welcomes the adjustments made to the new Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) programme, which will allow farmers to choose a coverage plan that allows them to best manage their risk. Additionally, the temporary extension of the Supplemental Revenue Assistance (SURE) programme to cover disaster-level losses suffered during the 2012 crop year and of the Milk Income Loss Contract programme (MILC) will provide needed protection during the transition period as the next farm bill is implemented.

“NFU is still concerned that the legislation does not do enough to protect farmers and ranchers against long-term price collapses. A programme such as the Market-Driven Inventory System (MDIS) would help protect against such collapses and should be implemented in the final bill.

“Chairwoman Stabenow, Ranking Member Roberts, and all of the members of the committee have worked hard to address the concerns of family farmers in the 2012 Farm Bill. We look forward to working with the committee to continue improving the legislation and secure its passage on the Senate floor.”

Further Reading

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