Senate Agriculture Committee approves Farm Bill

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 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 Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 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. 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. 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.”

Here is a short summary of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012.

 

Eliminates direct payments

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; and other measures.

 

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.

“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,” said Bob Stallman, AFBF president. “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.”

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