Farm Bill passes House
Washington, D.C. – On Jan. 28, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Agriculture Act of 2014, or the Farm Bill, and it’s headed to the Senate for final consideration.
The 950-page bill is, as expected, drawing mixed reaction among lawmakers and agricultural industry stakeholders. The House passed the conference report by a margin of 251-166, and it is expected the Senate will soon pass the legislation and that President Obama will sign it into law.
“They expect us to work together to find ways to reduce the cost of the federal government,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.). “The Agricultural Act contributes major savings to deficit reduction, significant reforms to policy and yet still provides a safety net, not only for the production of American food and fiber, but also to ensure our fellow citizens have enough food to eat.”
A press release from Lucas’ office notes that the bill achieves reform in a number of areas, including repeal of direct payments, strengthening of crop insurance and reform of dairy policy.
“It establishes a 10-state food stamp pilot to empower states to engage able-bodied adults in mandatory work programs; ensures illegal immigrants, lottery winners, traditional college students and the deceased do not receive food stamp benefits; consolidates 23 duplicative and overlapping conservation programs into 13; creates a permanent subcommittee within the EPA Science Advisory Board to conduct peer review of EPA actions that would negatively impact agriculture; and enhances coordination between USDA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding actions taken to manage the lesser prairie chicken,” lists the release.
Though Lucas was optimistic on the bill, Kansas Senator Pat Roberts (R) did not sign the conference committee report and opposed the bill.
“Despite years of work in both committees and strong provisions in the House-passed Farm Bill – the final legislation lacks key, common sense and sound science regulatory reforms,” Roberts said. “I am more than disappointed that a World Trade Organization (WTO)-compliant resolution to mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) was not reached. Our livestock producers were already facing drought and high feed prices, but now they will have to worry over retaliatory actions by the governments of Canada and Mexico.”
United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) President Jon Wooster commented, “USCA is very pleased that policy-makers made the decision not to intervene in the U.S. COOL program, which will allow the WTO process to proceed appropriately. We are also pleased that additional restrictions concerning revisions to the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Act (GIPSA) will not be authorized.”
Livestock groups, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Meat Institute and National Pork Producers Association and National Chicken Council, opposed the bill because it failed to resolve issues related to COOL and GIPSA.
On the other hand, some positive strides were made.
“This bill delivers necessary livestock disaster assistance and other support programs that producers have waited patiently for despite weather-related catastrophes,” Wooster continued. “USCA urges swift, bipartisan passage of this farm bill.”
USCA Executive Vice President Jess Peterson commented further on the bill, “Production agriculture, along with consumers who benefit from a healthy and affordable food supply, are all winners today, thanks to the Farm Bill principals. The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association urges the House and Senate to pass this bill as to allow for a quick signature and final seal of approval by President Obama.”
National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) President Earl Garber praised Farm Bill conferees for their leadership in passing a strong conference report out of committee.
“The conference report is evidence of a strong, bipartisan understanding of the true value that conservation brings to the landscape and to the economy,” said Garber. “We appreciate the conferees’ recognition of the importance of on-the-ground conservation and delivery – not only through words but by providing an increase in funding and the establishment of permanent baselines to critical programs such as Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). We could not be more pleased by the leadership of Chairwoman Stabenow, Chairman Lucas and the rest of the members of the committee.”
The conference report included two of NACD’s top Farm Bill priorities – conservation compliance tied to crop insurance and language to streamline the conservation Technical Assistance (TA) delivery process.
Other organizations, including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and National Corn Grower’s Association, among others, also applauded passage of the bill and urged the Senate to follow suit.
Additionally, Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union President Kent Peppler endorsed the Farm Bill compromise and urged Congress to pass the bill.
“A compromise never gives us everything we want,” Peppler said, “but this bill is good for farmers and good for consumers. The bill provides crop insurance and nearly $4 billion in livestock disaster relief, as well as increased funding for farmers markets and local foods. It established mandatory funding for renewable energy programs.”
The Senate could consider the bill as early as next week. If it is passed, it will head to the President’s desk for his signature.