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Agricultural News

Senate Agriculture Committee Approves Farm Bill with Broad Bipartisan Support

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 17:01:00 CDT

Senate Agriculture Committee Approves Farm Bill with Broad Bipartisan Support

The U.S. 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. The bill passed out of committee on a 12-4 vote of members present. (We have an audio overview of the mark up session which you can listen to by clicking on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of the story.) The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

The bill reforms food and agricultural policy by eliminating direct payments and emphasizing the need to strengthen risk management tools for farmers, saving billions of dollars. Overall, the bill will reduce the deficit by $23 billion dollars by eliminating unnecessary subsidies, consolidating programs 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.

"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, said Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.     

"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," she said.

The bill is very much a work-in-progress beyond the major framework that has been laid. Several Senators on the committee, including Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, were critical of the bill. Chambliss was particularly critical about the lack of a realistic safety net for producers. Chambliss voted against sending the bill to the floor.

"The safety net will not be there when farmers truly need it," Chambliss said. "Whether offered as an on-farm or area-wide basis, the narrow ten percent band of revenue protection will not help farmers should crop prices collapse. Under this bill, a farmer has an 11 percent deductible with the next ten percent of losses covered. However, many farmers may be totally exposed to a plunge in crop prices that hits the proposed loan rates. These proposed loan rates are set so low that if prices reach that point, the farmer is going to be out of business."

Chambliss also criticized the bill's attempt to lump all producers, all commodities, and all regions together.

"The farm bill in front of us attempts to shoehorn all producers into a one-size-fits-all policy. I do not believe this is equitable to my producers. Producer choice is the better course to follow and I regret that the commodity title does not recognize this priority. Let us remember that at the end of the day, the reason that we are here is to represent the hard-working men and women who work the land each and every day to provide the highest quality agricultural food and products in the world. I believe we have the opportunity to write a bill that can be equal to their commitment in providing the food, feed and fiber that allows us to be the greatest nation on earth. But right now, it appears that what this committee lacks is the willingness to do so."

Ranking member Pat Roberts said that while there may be areas of the bill that would benefit from amendments, there are certain portions of it that are non-negotiable. He was especially adamant that Senators keep their hands off of crop insurance. Witnesses at hearing after hearing after hearing both in the House and in the Senate have emphasized their desire that lawmakers preserve and strengthen crop insurance.

"And so what we sought out was not to really plus up, but to strengthen and improve crop insurance. And, at our hearings, they said the most important thing on behalf of producers and ag lenders was crop insurance. The only admonition I would say to anyone that wishes to offer an amendment to harm this agreed-upon product will be taken to Dodge City, Kansas, and hung by the neck until they are dead."

To view a copy of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, click here.



Senate Ag Committee passes 2012 Farm Bill to Senate floor.
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