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January 29, 2014   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
January 29, 2014

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 -- Alabama farmers are one step closer to having the long-awaited certainty of a new farm bill. The U.S. House of Representatives this morning approved the Conference Committee Report on the farm bill, H.R. 2642, by 251-166 vote. All seven Alabama congressmen voted for passage.

"We appreciate the diligence of our congressional delegation in securing passage of a farm bill," said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell. "We also thank House Agriculture Committee members Rep. Mike Rogers and Rep. Martha Roby for helping develop a farm bill that saves taxpayers billions of dollars while maintaining a safety net for farmers. While no farm bill is perfect, today's vote helps provide certainty to farmers who are facing planting and financial decisions."

The bill now moves to the Senate, where farmers are hoping for swift action so a new farm bill can finally go to the president and become law.

Supported by the Alabama Farmers Federation, the bill contains a number of the organization's priorities including an amendment introduced by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., that makes more farmers eligible for irrigation assistance under the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP). The bill also requires USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service to inspect foreign and domestic catfish.

Meanwhile, the bill strengthens the crop insurance program and provides two options to protect farmers from volatile commodity prices. Producers can choose between a revenue-based program called Agricultural Risk Coverage and a price-based option called Price Loss Coverage. Both programs use historical base acres, but farmers will be given an opportunity to update those bases.

The bill also creates permanent livestock disaster programs, adds flexibility to conservation programs, invests in agricultural research, reduces food stamp fraud and expands the production of non-food biofuels like cellulosic ethanol. For more information about the farm bill, visit agriculture.house.gov.

The farm bill was set to be rewritten in 2012 but did not make it to House floor for a vote. In 2013, the House Agriculture Committee's version of the farm bill was defeated on the floor over a disagreement about nutrition spending. The House later passed separate bills for nutrition and farm programs. Those "split" bills were conferenced with the Senate-passed version, resulting in the combined farm bill which the House passed today. The farm bill has strong bipartisan support and is expected to pass the Senate as well.

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