House Ag Committee Leaders Get Floor Time on the Farm Bill
General opening debate on the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 was held in the House Tuesday afternoon. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas shared the long road the legislation has been down - and called the measure a different farm bill for different times. He said reform is in the title of the bill because it is the most reform-minded bill in decades. Lucas said it repeals outdated policies while reforming, streamlining and consolidating over 100 government programs. He noted the Agriculture Committee and the agriculture community voluntarily worked together to make reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and to farm programs - and to contribute to deficit reduction. According to Lucas - every part of the bill is a part of the solution to Washington's spending problem - and it will save the American taxpayer nearly 40-billion dollars.
Lucas noted that direct payments are eliminated and the ACRE program, disaster program for crops and counter-cyclical program are repealed. Lucas also highlighted how the bill streamlines delivery of conservation programs; authorizes, strengthens and fully pays for livestock disaster assistance; invests in core specialty crop initiatives; and maintains investments in ag research. In closing - Lucas said the FARRM Act of 2013 deserves the vote of any member who is serious about reducing billions of dollars in mandatory government spending, reducing the size and cost of the federal government, making sure every American has a safe, affordable and reliable food supply and working together in a bipartisan way for the American people to achieve reforms and savings.
For his part - Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson said the farm bill gives farmers and ranchers the necessary tools to provide American consumers with the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world. But with roughly 16-million American jobs tied to agriculture - Peterson said the farm bill is also a jobs bill. Failing to pass a new, five-year farm bill - he said - could potentially devastate the rural economy that remained strong during the nation's financial crisis in large part because of agriculture. Peterson said the bill before the House is a compromise between commodities and regions, and urban and rural members. He also noted the reforms to farm programs - noting producers have a choice between two farm safety net programs and pointing to new income requirements.
Peterson also said the FARRM Act makes significant reforms to dairy programs. He said the new dairy safety net - the result of more than four years of work and compromise by the dairy industry - will address the volatility in the dairy market - helping consumers by making all milk prices more stable and eliminating the price spikes that are normal in today's marketplace. Peterson said the bill also recognizes the challenges facing many beginning farmers and ranchers.
In order for the bill to be conference and to get a new bill signed into law before September 30th - Peterson shared his opinion that the House needs to keep the bill bipartisan and not stray too far from what the Committee approved. He said compromise would be needed to finally get a new five-year farm bill completed.
Floor debate on amendments is expected to begin this (Wednesday) morning. Both Lucas and Peterson said Monday that they expect the House will finish its work and pass the farm bill by Thursday afternoon - the time House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has scheduled for the last votes of the week.
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