Groups Respond to House Ag Farm Bill Passage
Thanks to a very late vote on the House Ag Committee's version of the farm bill Wednesday - several ag organizations started weighing in on the measure Thursday. Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson were commended, applauded and congratulated for their work on the measure - while the House leadership was encouraged to bring the measure to the floor for debate and passage. Each of the groups expressed the importance of finalizing farm legislation before the current bill expires at the end of September. The American Soybean Association pointed out that the legislation affects Americans from all walks of life - as it is more than just a farm bill - it is a jobs and food bill.
The American Farm Bureau Federation says the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act is a fiscally responsible, bipartisan measure that continues to provide a basic-but-broad foundation of risk management protection for the nation's farmers and ranchers. While Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said farmers are not going to receive all the provisions they had hoped for - he commended the bipartisan efforts that went into provide the risk management, marketing, conservation and trade tools farmers and ranchers need to ensure a solid, predictable agricultural economy over the next few years. According to Stallman - the legislation maintains proven program features like the marketing loan provision and strengthens the crop insurance program. He added that it includes significant but fair reductions in ag spending over the next decade. Stallman said there are provisions Farm Bureau believes could be improved - but it was refreshing to see agriculture set a clear example of working together on building a package of reforms in a fiscally responsible manner.
National Corn Growers Association President Garry Niemeyer says NCGA is disappointed the House Ag Committee's version of the 2012 Farm Bill doesn't include a more viable market-oriented risk management program. While he says the group does support moving the legislative process forward - and urges the House Speaker to schedule time for floor consideration before the August recess - the nation's corn growers feel significant changes are needed. He says NCGA's farmers will work with House members to ensure those changes are included in a final package.
American Soybean Association President Steve Wellman notes ASA's key priority in the farm bill discussions has been to develop programs that help farmers manage risk while complementing crop insurance and avoiding planting distortions. He says ASA is encouraged by the committee's passage of a farm bill - but is concerned about planting distortions that could occur under a coupled target price program like the one contained in the House bill. The group supports provisions that reauthorize and fund trade and market development programs - as well as ag research programs; and the reauthorization of the Biobased Market Program and the Biodiesel Education Program. ASA also supports the focus on working-lands conservation and the gradual reduction of acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.
Despite the nearly 100 amendments considered by the House Agriculture Committee - National Sorghum Producers says the commodity title was left relatively intact - including reference prices and producer choice. Both were priorities of the group. NSP Legislative Committee Chairman J.B. Stewart says the committee passed a very good bill that achieves substantial budget savings - but maintains balanced and solid protection for America's farmers and ranchers.
The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance - a national coalition of more than 120 organizations representing growers of fruits, vegetables and more - commended the House Agriculture Committee's continued support of policies that enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of specialty crop agriculture. They say the measure includes funding for key specialty crop priorities like Specialty Crop Block Grants, the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, Plant Pest and Disease programs and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. Alliance members are disappointed with a significant policy change to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. Robert Guenther - Senior Vice President of Public Policy for Alliance member United Fresh - says opening the program to all forms of fruits and vegetables undermines the goal and focus of the program - which is to provide a fresh option to more than three-million American school children.
Gene Schmidt - National Association of Conservation Districts President - says his group fully supports the bipartisan efforts of Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson in moving a strong, common-sense bill out of committee. He says the FARRM Act demonstrates a firm commitment to the protection of America's precious natural resource base for the future. While the measure does call for conservation cuts - Schmidt says NACD says it's done in a way that consolidates and streamlines programs to preserve the ability of conservation districts, producers, landowners and other partners to continue working together to implement conservation on the ground. But cuts above the six-billion dollars outlined in the House bill - he says - will compromise these efforts and put the nation's critical and irreplaceable natural resources at risk for the future.
The National Cotton Council is grateful to the Committee for including the Stacked Income Protection Plan with provisions going along with the Cotton industry's proposal and new Supplemental Coverage Option. NCC Chairman Chuck Coley says cotton growers and their lenders need the certainty of program eligibility without regard to organizational structure or income - which is what the legislation will do. Coley says NCC looks forward to working with the House leadership to move the bill reported by the Committee.
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