Senate Committee’s Farm Bill Proves Bipartisanship Still Alive on the Hill

Posted on May 2, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

By Carl Chancellor

On a 16-5 vote, the Senate Agriculture Committee recently passed the “Agricultural Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012”, but the farm bill, which saves $26 billion over the next 10 years by slashing crop subsidies, consolidating programs and ending the misuse of food assistance programs, still has a long row to hoe before becoming law.

Next, the bill must pass the full Senate, before heading to the House Agriculture Committee for approval. From there it must be passed and reconciled by the House and be approved by members of both houses again before going to the President for his signature. In light of all that and despite grumblings from senators from southern peanut, cotton, and rice producing states, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, (D-MI), said her committee’s strong bipartisan vote bodes well for the bill’s passage (at least by the Senate), which replaces the current law that expires Sept. 30.

“This bill proves that by working across party lines, we can save taxpayer money and create smart, cost-effective policies that lay the foundation for a stronger, more prosperous economy,” said Stabenow.

Certainly, there are a lot of people, from both ends of the political spectrum who are unhappy with the bill, which to us is a sign that the Senate bill is setting the correct tone.
Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) said the bill “will have devastating impact on Southern agriculture.” He and others complain that rice and peanuts are grown and marketed differently, which they claim means that rice and peanut farmers cannot adapt easily to new crop insurance guidelines.

Equally displeased with portions of the bill the progressive Environmental Working Group dubbed it a new entitlement program for the largest farm operations paid for by cuts to hunger programs. Yet the group also applauded “provisions of the bill that support healthy diets, expand links between local farmers and consumers and help new farmers.”

Some of the key provisions of the Senate committee bill include:
• Ending farm subsidies to individuals earning more than $750,000;
• Capping subsidies at $50,000 per person;
• Ending practice of paying farmers for crops they aren’t growing;
• Consolidating 23 conservation programs into 13 programs;
• Investing in agricultural research and innovation, including bio-energy products;
• Increasing accountability in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), including cracking down on retailer benefit trafficking, ending misuse by college students, stopping lottery winners from receiving assistance, while maintaining benefits for needy families;
• Expanding links (food hubs) between local farmers and low-income consumers, schools, and community groups.

Hopefully, lawmakers in both houses will take their lead from Sen. Stabenow and her committee and craft a final version of the farm bill that through give and take—“compromise”—will produce a law that strikes a legislative balance that Americans of every stripe can embrace.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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