U.S. House of Representatives Drafts Their Version of Farm Bill

House Ag Committee Chair Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson have released a discussion draft of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013. The bipartisan bill cuts spending, reduces the size of government and makes common-sense reforms. According to Lucas – the bill is responsible and balanced. He says it addresses American’s concerns about federal spending and reforms farm and nutrition policy to improve efficiency and accountability. The Committee is scheduled to markup the farm bill on Wednesday. Lucas suggests full House consideration will happen this summer. Peterson says the draft closely resembles the bipartisan bill the House Agriculture Committee passed last summer. He says it includes a common-sense commodity title that will work for all producers, much-needed reforms to dairy programs and continued support for the sugar program. Peterson says the bill also builds on the investments the 2008 Farm Bill made to fruits and vegetables, farmers markets and local food systems. As for nutrition program reforms – Peterson says he believes there are more responsible ways of doing it. But he says the bottom line is that this is the first step in the process and it’s past time to pass a five-year farm bill.

According to a release from the House Agriculture Committee – highlights of the measure include:

  • Savings of nearly 40-billion dollars in mandatory funds, including the immediate sequestration of six-billion
  • Repeal or consolidation of more than 100 programs
  • Elimination of direct payments, which farmers received regardless of market conditions
  • Streamlining and reforming commodity policy, saving nearly 14-billion dollars while also giving producers a choice in how best to manage risk
  • Inclusion of the first reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) since the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, saving more than 20-billion dollars
  • Consolidation of 23 conservation programs into 13, improving program delivery to producers and saving more than six-billion dollars
  • Building on previous investments to fruit and vegetable production, farmers markets and local food systems.
  • Inclusion of several regulatory relief measures to help mitigate burdens farmers, ranchers and rural communities face

The House Agriculture Committee release on the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 notes reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will save more than 20-billion dollars. That cut – which comes from changes to categorical eligibility and a requirement that states make at least 20-dollars in payments for energy assistance for people to be eligible for food assistance – is a cut of just 2.5-percent. The cut made to commodity programs is 34-percent. The bill doesn’t include conservation compliance for crop insurance or any income eligibility limitations for crop insurance – nor does it shift international food assistance programs to cash assistance as proposed by the Obama Administration. The FARRM Act creates a Revenue Loss Coverage program – the equivalent of the Senate Agricultural Risk Coverage program – and a Price Loss Coverage program with payments based on reference or target prices. Both of these programs would make payments on current planted acreage up to a level of the farm’s overall base acreage. The new cotton program known as STAX is included in the measure – but it does not include a target price. The program would be based on revenue – with payments made on loss of revenue in a county. The hope is that this can resolve the WTO cotton case the U.S. lost to Brazil. Because the Risk Management Agency has said it can’t implement STAX for the 2014 crop year – and can’t guarantee it’s availability in all counties for 2015 – cotton growers would receive transition payments for 2014 and 2015.

Source: National Association of Farm Broadcasters