It took nearly 15 hours, but members of the House Agriculture Committee were able to pass their version of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM) Bill. Committee Chair Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) praised the bipartisan legislation:
“This is a balanced, reform-minded, fiscally responsible bill that underscores our commitment to production agriculture and rural America, achieves real savings, and improves program efficiency, said Chairman Frank Lucas.
“The House leadership needs to bring the farm bill to the floor for a vote. We should not jeopardize the health of our rural economies which, by and large, have remained strong the last few years. 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 Ranking Member Collin Peterson.
But the USDA is not pleased about cuts to the nutrition title of the bill. “Unfortunately, the bill produced by the House Agriculture Committee contains deep cuts in SNAP, including a provision that will deny much-needed food assistance to 3 million Americans, mostly low-income working families with children as well as seniors. The proposed cuts will deny 280,000 children in low-income families access to school meals and reduce farm income across rural America. These cuts wouldn’t just leave Americans hungry – they would stunt economic growth. The bill also makes misguided reductions to critical energy and conservation program efforts,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in a statement.
Meanwhile, agriculture groups are mixed in their evaluation of the legislation, with the National Corn Growers Association disappointed that it does not include a more viable market-oriented risk management program. “We support moving the legislative process forward and urge Speaker Boehner to schedule time for full House floor consideration before the August recess,” said NCGA President Garry Niemeyer in a statement. “However, we feel there needs to be significant changes made to the legislation. Our farmers will be working with members of the House of Representatives to ensure those changes are included in a final package.”
The National Association of Wheat Growers wants to see the bill passed as soon as possible, with winter wheat planting season rapidly approaching. “In addition to crop insurance and Title I policies, the bill passed today includes important provisions with regards to conservation, research, food aid, marketing and nutrition that should not be subjected to the uncertainty of short-term extensions,” said NAWG President Erik Younggren.
The American Farm Bureau Federation also urged lawmakers to get moving on the legislation. “As the congressional calendar ticks down, time is of the essence,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “There are very few days remaining for this bill to be completed, but we need a new farm bill this year. We are committed to working with members of Congress to secure a bill that works for all Americans.”
The National Farmers Union’s President Roger Johnson issued a statement praising the bill, especially what was left out of it: measures that would have cut the sugar program and the Dairy Market Stabilization Program. “The sugar industry is important to our nation’s economic health, generating $20 billion annually and creating 142,000 jobs. And although NFU is skeptical of the untested dairy insurance program included in the Act, one thing that would certainly make the program wholly ineffective is allowing dairies to increase production unchecked.” He was not as pleased that there is no funding for rural energy programs and what he sees as a dismantling of Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL).
With some significant changes from the Senate’s version, expect to see a lot more wrangling over the overall bill before a final version is done (hopefully) this fall.