SENATE PASSES FARM BILL
Following three days of votes on more than 70 amendments, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the 2012 farm bill early Thursday afternoon by a vote of 64-35. The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, estimated to cut the deficit by almost $24 billion over the next 10 years, will end direct payments to farmers and looks to place increased emphasis on individual crop insurance.
American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said the bill’s passage today is good news for farmers and ranchers.
“While no farm bill is perfect, this is a solid bill that was worthy of Senate approval,” said Stallman. “The bill includes important reforms and is fiscally responsible, while including important provisions to enhance crop insurance, maintain a viable marketing loan program and minimize the potential for farm program provisions to drive producer decisions.”
AFBF and the Alabama Farmers Federation were successful in their efforts to oppose an amendment that would have prohibited any mandatory or compulsory checkoff programs. The organizations were also successful in opposing amendments that would have eliminated the $4 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) and imposed a $250,000 Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) means test for all programs in the farm bill, including conservation.
Federation National Legislative Programs Director Mitt Walker pointed out there were also a number of amendments opposed by Federation that were agreed to by the Senate.
"Two amendments we opposed related to crop insurance did gain approval," said Walker. "One requires conservation compliance as a requisite for crop insurance eligibility, and the other requires producers with an AGI over certain levels to pay a higher premium for crop insurance."
The bill now moves to the House Agriculture Committee, which will begin its farm bill legislative activity in July.
U.S. House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., emphasized the importance of the House passing the legislation before the late summer recess in a statement issued after the bill’s passage in the Senate and reminded members of the nearing expiration date of the current farm bill.
“It is crucial that we finish the farm bill before the current bill expires in September,” said Peterson. “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.”
Walker added that key components of the House's bill will differ from the version passed in the Senate.
"I expect we will see a vastly different bill from the House Agriculture Committee," he said. "The differences will most likely include target prices as an option in the commodity title and deeper cuts to nutrition title."
The Federation's Farm Bill Committee will continue to monitor the status of the farm bill.