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Agricultural News

Chairwoman Stabenow Summarizes the Senate Ag Committee's 2012 Farm Bill Committee Print

Fri, 20 Apr 2012 19:57:53 CDT

Chairwoman Stabenow Summarizes the Senate Ag Committee's 2012 Farm Bill Committee Print Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., have released their co-authored mark for the 2012 farm bill. The Committee Print of the 2012 Farm Bill reforms farm policy, consolidates and streamlines programs, and will reduce the deficit by $23 billion. This bill saves taxpayers money while strengthening initiatives that help farmers, ranchers and small business owners create American jobs.

The bill eliminates direct payments while strengthening risk management. Farmers face unique risks unlike other businesses. Weather and market conditions outside a producer's control can have devastating effects. A risk management system that helps producers stay in business through a few bad seasons ensures that Americans always have access to a safe and plentiful food supply.

The proposal eliminates direct payments. Farmers will no longer be paid for crops they are not growing, will not be paid for acres that are not actually planted, and will not receive support absent a drop in price or yields. It consolidates two remaining farm programs into one, and will give farmers the ability to tailor risk management coverage-meaning better protection against real risks beyond a farmer's control. It strengthens crop insurance and expands access so farmers are not wiped out by a few days of bad weather.

The bill consolidates and streamlines programs. By eliminating duplicative programs, funds are concentrated in the areas in which they will have the greatest impact, making them work better for producers.

By ending duplication and consolidating programs, the bill eliminates dozens of programs under the Agriculture Committee's jurisdiction. For example, the bill consolidates 23 existing conservation programs into 13 programs, while maintaining the existing tools farmers and landowners need to protect and conserve land, water and wildlife.   

At a time when many out-of-work Americans are in need for the first time in their lives, it is critical that every taxpayer dollar be spent responsibly and serves those truly struggling. By closing loopholes, tightening standards, and requiring greater transparency, the proposal increases efficiency and improves effectiveness.

The proposal increases accountability in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by: Stopping lottery winners from continuing to receive assistance; ending misuse by college students; cracking down on retailers and recipients engaged in benefit trafficking; increasing requirements to prevent liquor and tobacco stores from becoming retailers, eliminating gaps in standards that result in overpayment of benefits while maintaining benefits for families in need.

The bill grows America's agricultural economy. The proposal increases efficiency and accountability, saving tens of billions of dollars overall, while strengthening agricultural jobs initiatives by expanding export opportunities and helping farmers develop new markets for their goods.

It invests in research to help commercialize new agricultural innovations. It grows bio-based manufacturing (businesses producing goods in America from raw agricultural products grown in America) by allowing bio-manufacturers to participate in existing U.S. Department of Agriculture loan programs, expanding the BioPreferred labeling initiative, and strengthening a procurement preference so the U.S. government will select bio-based products when purchasing needed goods.

It spurs advancements in bio-energy production, supporting advanced biomass energy production such as cellulosic ethanol and pellets from woody biomass for power. It helps family farmers sell locally by increasing support for farmers' markets and spurring the creation of food hubs to connect farmers to schools and other community-based consumers.

It extends rural development initiatives to help rural communities upgrade infrastructure and create an environment for small businesses to grow.

Senate aides who did not work for the committee said the bill cuts farm program spending by a total of $25 billion over 10 years, divided as $15 billion from farm programs, $6 billion from conservation and $4 billion from nutrition, with $2 billion of the savings used for purposes such as extending the specialty crop grant program and beginning farmer education.

The bill also does not raise target prices on program crops, places the cotton program known as STAX in the crop insurance title and includes a peanut revenue program in the crop insurance title.

It allows farmers in the new Ag Risk Coverage program known as ARC to choose whether to use a country or individual trigger for payments, with lower payments if the farmer chooses the individual trigger, but with a payment limit of $50,000.

The proposal scales back the size of the Conservation Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Security Program and groups other conservation programs.

The proposal says that payments under the Low Income Heating and Energy Program can help qualify people for supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) only if the payments are $10 per month or higher and narrows the definition of education programs under which people can qualify for SNAP. It forbids distribution of SNAP payments to lottery winners.

The bill also consolidates the adjusted gross income to $900,000 per individual, making no difference between farm and nonfarm income.

Stabenow told agricultural journalists earlier this week that she expects to hold a markup beginning Wednesday.



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