In the wee hours of Thursday morning, the full House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the farm bill by a 35-to-11 vote. The bill (H.R. 6083) is known as the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012 or FARRM. It now moves on to the House floor for the full body’s consideration.
As outlined in the draft version, the committee approved the program spending cuts totaling $35 billion. This is higher than in the Senate’s final bill. Specifically, the House proposed bill cuts more deeply ($16 billion) into the food stamp program than the Senate's version.
Among the more significant changes from past farm policy, the House bill would end direct payments made to crop farmers, replacing them with risk-management options focused on crop insurance. The point is to more directly address farmers’ challenges caused by weather conditions and market fluctuations.
“This is a balanced, reform-minded, fiscally responsible bill that underscores our commitment to production agriculture and rural America, achieves real savings, and improves program efficiency,” said Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.).
However, not everyone agrees. The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Garry Niemeyer said, "NCGA is disappointed that the House Agriculture Committee's passed version of the 2012 Farm Bill, does not include a more viable market-oriented risk-management program." He indicated that "there needs to be significant changes made to the legislation" and that NCGA will work toward that end.
Direct Payments, Counter-Clycical Payments, the Average Crop Revenue Election program, and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments were repealed, saving $14 billion. Price Loss Coverage, and Revenuew Loss Coverage are part of the replacement options.
On the conservation side, FARRM streamlines and consoildates 23 programs into 13, saving $6 billion.
Of notable interest for those in animal agriculture is the fact that legislation to set federal standards for egg-laying hens drafted by the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers did not make it into the House version of the farm bill. That also was the case on the Senate side.
The ultimate goal is to complete a bill through both congressional houses before the current 2008 Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30. But the likelihood of that is questionable, as FARRM now moves to the full House for debate and a vote. From there, the legislation would go to a conference committee to merge the House and Senate versions. Each house would have to approve the compromise bill and send it on to President Obama to be signed before the Sept. 30 deadline.
“There only 13 legislative days before the August recess,” said Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.). “Simply put, the House leadership needs to bring the farm bill to the floor for a vote. Our nation's farmers and ranchers need the certainty of a new five-year farm bill and they need it before the current farm bill ends."
Economic analysts and some lawmakers, however, are concerned that extending the current bill appears to be the most likely option, reports CNN.org. If a farm bill is delayed until after the November election or till 2013, economists say even deeper cuts will be made to the legislation.
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson, said about the House bill, “NFU is pleased that the committee included some protection for long-term price collapse, which is a critical part of any safety net.” However, several other aspects of the bill disappointed the group, including lack of support for country-of-origin labeling (COOL) and livestock market competition provisions associated with the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration-- or the GIPSA rule. It was originally part of the 2008 Farm Bill and has been controversal, involving public hearings, comment periods and court rulings.
The House bill includes an ammendment, presented by Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif. that would prevent the GISPA rule as outlined in the 2008 Farm Bill.
Of particular interest to pork producers is the reauthorization of the Trichinae Certification Program through 2017. This pre-harvest pork-safety program implements management practices, and monitoring to ensure minimal risk of exposure to Trichinella spiralis, which is an important assurance for both domestic and export markets.