Senate passes its version of farm bill

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The U.S. House Agriculture Committee approved the 2012 Farm Bill, “The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012” Thursday, June 21 in a vote of 64-35, much to the approval of several large commodity organizations such as the National Corn Growers Association and the American Soybean Association. However, southern crop groups felt largely ignored by the Senate's version.

The National Corn Growers Association and the American Soybean Association congratulated the Senate on passage of Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act (2012 farm bill). 

NCGA has advocated for an affordable crop insurance program as well as a farm program that would provide risk management tools to growers when they are facing a loss beyond their control. NCGA has also encouraged farm policy reforms that will be responsive to taxpayers and effective in helping farms remain viable and productive.

"ASA is extremely pleased with the Senate's legislation, which would establish an effective risk management program for soybean producers that complements crop insurance, consolidate conservation programs, and have agriculture do its fair share to help address our nation's fiscal situation by reducing government spending on agriculture by $23 billion," said ASA President Steve Wellman, a soybean farmer from Syracuse, Neb. "We look forward to working with the House Agriculture Committee as it finalizes its version of this legislation, so the 2012 Farm Bill can be completed this year."

Citing concerns on how Louisiana farmers would negatively fare under a new, five-year Senate farm bill, U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., voted against the legislation. The bill would have drastic consequences for Louisiana’s rice farmers and require them to take a larger cut in assistance than any other commodity. More than 2,000 rice farmers call Louisiana home, and the rice industry generates $638 million in economic activity for Louisiana each year. Louisiana’s farmers and ranchers generated $10.7 billion in economic activity last year alone.

“Few states in the country produce as many diverse crops as we do in Louisiana. We needed a farm bill that supports all of our farmers. This bill didn’t, and that’s why I voted against it. Farming is more than a business, it is more than a job; it's a way of life,” Sen. Landrieu said. “I support efforts to reform and improve federal farm programs. However, unlike other commodities that take a 30 percent average reduction under this bill, rice farmers are asked to take a 65 percent reduction. Without an adequate safety net that can actually catch our rice farmers if they fall, the rice industry in Louisiana as well as the entire infrastructure on which it is built will fail. I hope that as the farm bill travels to the House, the farm provisions dealing with rice are improved.”

House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson, (D-Minn.) said, “Today is an important step to having a farm bill in place before the current bill expires this fall. I give high marks to Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Roberts who did an excellent job securing bipartisan support and bringing the bill one step closer to completion. I’m not on board with everything they’ve done but think that we’ll be able to work out our differences in conference committee.

“It is crucial that we finish the farm bill before the current bill expires in September. Waiting until the mess that will occur during the lame duck session will not only make it more difficult, but could also result in several unintended consequences. If the House Ag Committee passes a bipartisan bill in early July, House leadership will then have little choice but to bring the farm bill to the floor before the August recess. I’m continuing to work with Chairman Lucas and members of the Committee to make this happen.”

Chairman Frank Lucas said, "Although there will be differences between the Senate approach and our own, I hope my colleagues are encouraged by this success when we meet on the 11th to consider our own legislation.  The House Agriculture Committee will consider a balanced proposal that saves taxpayers billions of dollars, recognizes the diversity of American agriculture, respects the risks producers face, and preserves the tools necessary for food production."

Agriculture groups issued announcements Thursday in support of the Senate’s passing of S. 3240. Most urged the House of Representatives to take up their version quickly.

In an interview with Mike Adams on AgriTalk Thursday, Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director of congressional relations for American Farm Bureau Federation, said the House was not likely to take up the issue until after the July 4th holiday. “It’s going to be difficult to get this bill done,” she told Adams.

Most groups were not happy with the move to link crop insurance with conservation compliance. Also, Thatcher said Farm Bureau was not pleased with moving the adjusted gross income limitation to $750,000.

One measure most commodity groups were supportive of in the Senate’s version was the funding for the Market Access Program remained intact. An amendment to reduce the funding from $200 million to $160 million was defeated.

Although nutrition spending did not increase, it did not lose money either, according to Thatcher. However, cuts are expected in the House version when the House takes up its version.

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