Details of the 2012 farm bill continue to slowly emerge, but farmers across the country are eager for an official version to materialize soon.
Members of the House Agriculture Committee met and gave a favorable report of its version of the farm bill July 11. Known as the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act, the bill was approved by the Committee by a vote of 35-11. The FARRM Act now moves to the House. Whether a bill will be finalized before the 2008 farm bill expires Sept. 30 remains to be seen, but congressmen are optimistic.
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.
“Our nation’s farmers and ranchers need the certainty of a new five-year farm bill, and they need it before the current farm bill ends,” said Peterson, who drafted the FARRM Act alongside Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla. “There will be challenges ahead. But, if the House leadership gets this right and brings this bill to the floor, we will ultimately finish the bill in September.”
Lucas echoed Peterson’s remarks, adding that the committee’s report could foreshadow the House reaction.
“This marks an important step forward in the development of the next farm bill,” said Lucas.
According to Alabama Farmers Federation National Legislative Programs Director Mitt Walker, there is still no commitment by House leadership to bring the bill to the floor, but there is still a chance of seeing it passed this year.
“We could see a compromised version of the Senate and House bills attached to another piece of legislation later in the year,” he said. “The savings created by the farm bill could be used to offset the cost of other legislation.”
After reviewing the FARRM Act, Walker said key components of the House bill differ from the version passed in the Senate.
“As expected, a vastly different bill was approved by the House Agriculture Committee July 11,” said Walker. “The main differences resulting after the nearly 14-hour mark up involved the Commodity Title, which remained essentially intact as the majority of the amendments impacting the section of the bill were defeated. There were also deeper cuts to the nutrition title.”
Defeated amendments would have modified the current sugar program and repealed the market stabilization component of the newly proposed dairy program, noted Walker. Both amendments were offered by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va;, and Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., joined Goodlatte in cosponsoring the dairy amendment.
“The Alabama Farmers Federation heard from our dairymen and actively opposed the Goodlatte-Scott Amendment,” Walker said. “We were pleased to see both Rep. Terri Sewell and Rep. Martha Roby vote against the measure.”
Another amendment by Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., would have repealed the catfish inspection program authorized in the 2008 farm bill. According to Walker, the 20-25 vote to defeat this amendment was key because the program was repealed in the Senate bill by an amendment sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Keeping the program in the House bill keeps the program alive for now.
The House bill is estimated to cut the deficit by $35 billion and provides regulatory relief to mitigate burdens farmers, ranchers and rural communities face. Meanwhile, the Senate’s version of the 2012 farm bill, which passed June 21, is estimated to cut the national deficit by almost $24 billion over the next 10 years. It also looks to place increased emphasis on individual crop insurance, while the FARRM Act offers producers a choice between revenue loss coverage and price loss coverage. Both the House and Senate agree on eliminating direct payments.
The Federation’s Farm Bill Committee continues to monitor the status of the farm bill.