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Government

Farm Bill advances out of House Committee

Written by Saige Albert
Washington, D.C. – Following the approval of H.R. 6083, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012 (FARRM), by the House Agriculture Committee with a 35-11 vote, Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) reflected on the efforts that contributed to passing a Farm Bill.
    “Today marked an important step forward in the development of the next farm bill,” Lucas noted. “I appreciate the efforts of my colleagues and the bipartisan nature in which this legislation was written and approved.”
    He continued, “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.”
    Peterson similarly noted satisfaction with the process and urged Congress to move forward with the Farm Bill, saying, “I’m pleased today’s markup is behind us and we can continue to move the process forward.”
    “The current farm bill expires on September 30, and there are only 13 legislative days before the August recess. Simply put, the House leadership needs to bring the farm bill to the floor for a vote,” added Peterson. “We should not jeopardize the health of our rural economies, which, by and large, have remained strong the last few years.  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.”
Concerns with the legislation
    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack commented that the House bill contains deep cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), claiming that the proposed cuts would deny 280,000 low-income children access to school meals and may reduce farm income across rural America.
    “Unfortunately, the bill produced by the House Agriculture Committee contains deep cuts in SNAP, including a provision that will deny much-needed food assistance to 3 million Americans, mostly low-income working families with children as well as seniors,” Vilsack said.
     “These cuts wouldn’t just leave Americans hungry – they would stunt economic growth,” he continued. “The bill also makes misguided reductions to critical energy and conservation program efforts.”
    A summary provided by the House Agriculture Committee said that cuts made to SNAP strengthen the program’s integrity and accountability, but the issue will likely hinder a speedy passage of the full House.
    The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) also expressed dissatisfaction with the bill due to concern with the risk management programs provided.
    “We feel that there needs to be significant changes made to the legislation,” said NCGA President Garry Niemeyer in a statement. “Our farmers will be working with members of the House of Representatives to ensure those changes are included in a final package.”
A look inside
    H.R. 6083 incorporates $35 billion in cuts, with $14 billion coming from the farm safety net, $6 billion coming from conservation programs and $16 billion from nutrition reforms.
    The FARRM Act also cuts billions in discretionary funding and consolidates or repeals over 100 programs. Consolidation of Title II Conservation programs aims to improve the delivery of conservation by simplifying programs, but will also save money.
    Other features of the FARRM Act include the repeal of direct and countercyclical payments, and the legislation provides regulatory relief to mitigate the burdens on agricultural communities.
    When compared to the Senate version of the bill, fundamental differences, as well as a $12 billion spread in cuts taken, may prove to be obstacles in successfully conferencing the bill, according to analysts.
    For more information on the Farm Bill titles, visit agriculture.house.gov. Saige Albert, editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled this article.