The Senate Ag Committee has voted to approve the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 authored by Chair Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Pat Roberts. It will now go to the full Senate for consideration. The bill eliminates direct payments and emphasizes the need to strengthen risk management tools for farmers - saving billions of dollars. By eliminating unnecessary subsidies, consolidating programs and cracking down on food assistance abuse - the measure will reduce the deficit by 23-billion dollars.
Ahead of the Committee vote - Stabenow said she and Roberts had reformed, streamlined and consolidated to get perhaps the most significant reforms in agricultural policy of any farm bill in recent memory. Among other things - she touted strengthened crop insurance, a risk management tool to supplement crop insurance, the tightest payment limits ever, the end of direct payments ag research investments, a renewed commitment to specialty crops and organic farms and a streamlined Rural Development Title. She called the bill is a jobs bill - and expressed her commitment to getting the bill done this year.
Ranking Member Pat Roberts said he was proud of the measure. Calling it a reform bill - Roberts stressed that no other committee in Congress has voluntarily undertaken programmatic and funding reforms at this level in this budget climate. According to Roberts - the bill cuts deficit spending but still strengthens and preserves the programs that are important to agriculture and rural America.
A copy of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 - including the amendments that were accepted by the Committee - is available at www dot ag dot senate dot gov slash issues slash farm dash bill (www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill). A section-by-section summary of the bill is also available.
***Here is the short summary of the bill as provided by the office of Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow:
The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 reforms farm policy, consolidates and streamlines programs, and will reduce the deficit by $23 billion. This bill saves taxpayers money while strengthening initiatives that help farmers, ranchers and small business owners create American jobs. 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.