Senate Ag Committee approves farm bill

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The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Thursday voted to approve the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, a bipartisan farm bill authored by Committee Chairwoman Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Ranking Member Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. 

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 by eliminating unnecessary subsidies, consolidating programs to end duplication, and cracking down on food assistance abuse.

The 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,” Stabenow said. “By eliminating duplication, and streamlining and consolidating programs, we were able to continue investing in initiatives that help farmers and small businesses create jobs.”

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.”

To view a copy of the bill, including the amendments that were accepted by the Committee, please visit the Senate Agriculture Committee website  

Among key provisions, 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.
  • 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.
  • Strengthens crop insurance and expands access so farmers are not wiped out by a few days of bad weather.
  • 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. 
       

 

  • Improves Program Integrity and Accountability 

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. 

  • 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.
    • The proposal maintains benefits for families in need.

 

  • 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.
  • Investing in research to help commercialize new agricultural innovations.
  • Growing 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.
  • Spurring advancements in bio-energy production, supporting advanced biomass energy production such as cellulosic ethanol and pellets from woody biomass for power.
  • Helping 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.
  • Extending rural development initiatives to help rural communities upgrade infrastructure and create an environment for small businesses to grow.

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