The Senate version of the 2012 farm bill passed a crucial test last week when 90 senators voted in favor of bringing the bill to the floor for further consideration. The Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 (S.3240), commonly called the ‘farm bill’, passed the cloture vote Thursday by an overwhelming margin of 90-8. The measure now proceeds to the full Senate floor for debate and amendments, a process that could take several weeks before a final vote is taken.

The 2012 farm bill cuts spending by 23.6 billion dollars over 10 years primarily by replacing direct payments with an agricultural risk coverage program which protects farmers against losses in revenue, boosting crop insurance, and cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamps.

As this process moves forward, significant differences between the House and Senate legislation are likely. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank D. Lucas (R-Okla.), has said that he will file his own bill that will not necessarily reflect the Senate design. The House bill is expected be released June 18 and include stronger price protection for rice and peanut growers and reflect stronger cuts toward nutrition.

ARA continues to advocate the farm bill policy goals of our membership by interacting with legislators and staff, and distributing literature to Congress to reinforce our concerns, which include:

Conservation

  • Reduce the amount of acreage in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) by designating the majority tract as highly erodible acreage (HEL)
    • Permit haying and grazing in all participating counties
    • Allow more flexibility in the CRP contracts to allow producers to take advantage of emerging techniques and technologies
  • Support the statistical survey work performed by the USDA National Agricultural Statistical Service, namely a funding increase for the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Technical Service Provider Program (TSP) should mandate industry representatives on the state technical committees.

Tax Provisions

  • Extend the Agricultural Chemical Security Tax Credit
  • “Fix” the depreciation schedule for agricultural equipment from 7 years to a permanent 5 year schedule

Biotechnology

  • The biotechnology approval process should be reformed by implementing a more accountable and efficient federal agency review process.