HOUSE AG COMMITTEE COMPLETES 2001 FARM BILL
Washington, D.C. - With strong bi-partisan support in passage, the House Agriculture Committee on Friday completed the next farm bill designed to bring predictability back to the federal government's farm support programs while enlarging participation in soil and water conservation.
By allowing producers the voluntary choice to update their base acres, and adding counter-cyclical support based on target prices to the already-established 2002 level of transition payments, "The Agricultural Act of 2001" H.R. 2646, provides both the flexibility and predictability that most producers, commodity and farm groups have called for in the next farm bill.
The Federation's Washington lobbyist, Keith Gray, said several recommendations submitted by members in the Alabama Farmers Federation were adopted as part of the new Farm Bill. Among them were full planting flexibility for farmers; a counter-cyclical safety net in addition to decoupled AMTA type payments, increased funding for technical assistance to farmers and ranchers for environmental compliance and retention of cotton's three-step competitiveness marketing.
Historic reform was adopted for the peanut program. Alabama Congressman Terry Everett, chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Specialty Crops and Foreign Agriculture Programs (which oversees federal peanut policy), was instrumental in drafting the new peanut program language which was adopted by the committee.
"Forces are combining to bring about the end of the peanut program, and we must respond to protect the growers and the industry," Everett said. "The new peanut program language addresses the main concerns of the current program's growing bi-partisan political opposition in Washington while also protecting the growers from the rise in foreign peanut imports.
Enlarging participation for soil and water conservation programs by 80 percent above current budget trends, the House Agriculture Committee 2001 Farm Bill provides producers with more options to implement progressive conserving practices on their land, with the backing of increased technical assistance to producers using any government or private contractors.
"House Ag Committee Members made good use of their farming and ranching experience to deliver flexibility and predictability for producers and budget responsibility for taxpayers, as a departure from the uncertainty of the recent year-to-year patchwork of additional financial assistance. The best agricultural practices begin with good field preparation, so first we listened to producers in rural hearings we began nearly two years ago, and now today our result is a productive harvest of those ideas in the 2001 Farm Bill," said House Agriculture Chairman Larry Combest (R-Texas).
"The bill reported today is a good deal for agriculture and a good deal for taxpayers. Emergency spending by Congress to respond to agriculture's income crisis was proof that our programs need reworking. Today, the Committee took a bold first step toward meeting that need," said Ranking Minority Member Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas). "As a long time advocate of counter-cyclical assistance, I am pleased that this legislation addresses this need, in addition to maintaining the flexibility that is so popular with the nation's producers. This legislation brings together a coalition of interests that will be needed to pass it in the full House and see it signed into law by the end of the year."
•Maintains maximum planting flexibility while providing counter-cyclical protection to help farmers weather adverse market conditions.
•Retains fixed-decoupled payments, as well as the marketing loan program. Marketing loan rates are maintained for all commodities except oilseeds, which are reduced to a level equivalent to other commodities, and grain sorghum which is raised to a level equivalent to corn.
•Provides producers with the option to update base acreage. Current base yields are maintained. Both fixed-decoupled, and counter-cyclical payments are made on the producer's base.
•For oilseeds and farms without current AMTA payment base and yields, the Secretary is directed to develop payment yields that are comparable to current AMTA yields in the area.
•Counter-cyclical payments are triggered when a crop's price, adjusted for the fixed decoupled payment, is below the target price. The payment rate for a crop would be calculated as the difference between its target price and the sum of the following components:
(a)The higher of the national twelve-month season average price received by producers, or the national average loan.
(b)The fixed decoupled payment rate.
•Payment limits are set at $50,000 for fixed decoupled payments, $75,000 for counter-cyclical payments and $75,000 for marketing loan gains and loan deficiency payments.
For a complete list of payment schedules, visit the House Ag Committee website at:
•Sugar - Eliminate marketing assessment on sugar, reduce the CCC interest rate on price support loans, authorize a Payment-in-Kind program, reestablishes the no-net-cost concept feature of the program and provides the Secretary authority to implement allotments for sugar producer.
•Dairy - Extend the milk price support program at $9.90 per cwt through 2011.
•Wool and Mohair - Creates a marketing assistance loan program similar to other program commodities. Provides producers price support loans or loan deficiency payments. Loan rate of $1.0 per pound for graded wool, $0.40 per pound for nongraded wool and $4.20 per pound for mohair.
• Honey - Creates a marketing assistance loan program similar to other program commodities. Provides producers price support loans or loan deficiency payments. Loan rate of $0.60 per pound.
•Peanuts - Makes historic reform to peanut program to make peanuts similar to other traditional program crops. Provides a fixed decoupled payment at $0.018 per pound, counter cyclical program with a target price of $480 per ton, marketing loan at $350 per ton. Terminates marketing quota program and compensates the quota holders for the loss of the quota asset value at $0.10 per pound for five years.
•Fruits and Vegetables - Give the Secretary sole decision authority to combat outbreaks of plant and animal diseases with emergency funds, retain planting restriction of fruits and vegetables on base acres, provides additional $200 million in spending authority for surplus commodity purchases under Section 32, increases the Market Access Program (MAP) by $110 million per year, creates a Technical Assistance Specialty Crop (TASC) fund to assist with trade barriers and significantly increases EQIP funding with targeted spending for water conservation assistance.
The conservation section devotes $16.511 billion over 10 years to soil, water and wildlife programs. This represents over a 75% increase in baseline spending. Program changes include:
•Reauthorize the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) through 2011 with a 40-million-acre enrollment cap. Secretary may permit harvesting of biomass for energy on CRP acreage with a reduction in rental rate.
•Reauthorize the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) through 2011 at $1.2 billion annual program level, with livestock producers receiving 50% of annual funding. In addition, a $675 million fund is created in EQIP to address ground water conservation issues, including cost share for more efficient irrigation systems.
•Reauthorize the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) through 2011 and provide for an additional 150,000 acres to be enrolled per year.
•Reauthorize the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) to provide cost share for landowners to enhance wildlife habitat at a program level of $25 million annually.
•Reauthorize the Farmland Protection Program (FPP) at a program level of $50 million annually.
•Authorizes 2 million acres in a Grassland Reserve Program to be enrolled in 10, 15 and 20 year contracts. One million acres to native grass and 1 million acres devoted to restored grasslands.
•Provide up to $100 million per year to provide conservation technical assistance to producers using any governmental, or private contractors.
•$150 million to fund the Small Watershed Dam Restoration.
•Combine the Forestry Incentive Program (FIP) and the Stewardship Incentive Program (SIP) and fund at $15 million per year.
•Reauthorize the Market Access Program (MAP) through 2011. Increase funding by $110 million per year (from $90 million to $200 million).
FOOD FOR PROGRESS
•Reauthorize Food for Progress (FFP) through 2011. Increase transportation and administrative funds to allow additional food aid.
• Reauthorize Foreign Market Development and increase funding to $35 million a year through 2011.
•Reauthorize Export Enhancement Program (EEP) through 2011.
•Reauthorize Dairy Export Incentive Program (DEIP) through 2011.
•Reauthorize the Food for Peace program through 2011.
•Continue the Research Initiative for Future Agricultural Systems at a program level of $120 million per year through 2011.
•Reauthorizes existing research programs.
•Improves on programs to include priority research items such as pest detection and exclusion, energy efficiency, value-added agricultural production and marketing.
•Provide $40 million annually in additional funds for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP).
•Simplify application process for Food Stamp program; improve quality control; increase standard deduction; provides a 6-month transition benefit for those leaving welfare and simplify State level program operations.
•Emergency Drinking Water Grants.
•Strategic Planning Initiative. Provide for regionally planned rural development pilot programs.
•Broadband Direct Loans to facilitate the expansion of high-speed internet access to rural communities. $2 billion lending level costing
•Increase funding for the Value Added Grants Program to provide grants for start-up farmer-owned value added processing facilities.