Senate Passes Farm Bill

The U.S. Senate today voted to approve the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, a bipartisan Farm Bill authored by Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Ranking Member Senator Pat Roberts. The bill was approved with broad bipartisan support, on a vote of 64-35. The bill, which saves taxpayers more than $23 billion, represents the most significant reform of American agriculture policy in decades.

CapitolThe bill reforms food and agricultural policy by eliminating direct payments and emphasizing the need to strengthen risk management tools for farmers, saving billions of dollars. Overall, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 will reduce the deficit by more than $23 billion dollars by eliminating unnecessary subsidies, consolidating programs to end duplication, and confronting misuse in food assistance programs. These reforms allow for the strengthening of key initiatives that help farmers and small businesses reach new markets and create American jobs.

“This Farm Bill is the most significant reform to farm programs in decades-it cuts spending, ends subsidies, improves accountability and strengthens healthy food systems. This bill was developed through bipartisan collaboration, passed committee with broad bipartisan support, and we have now passed a bipartisan bill that supports 16 million American jobs. It is heartening to earn support from both sides on a major bill that cuts spending and helps create jobs. Passage of this bill shows that when people come together, Congress can still get big things done.”

Stabenow continued, “I want to thank my Ranking Member Senator Pat Roberts for his leadership and commitment to working on behalf of American agriculture and to my colleagues in the Senate for voting on behalf of the 16 million American jobs that rely on a robust, innovative and strengthened agriculture sector. I look forward to continuing to work in a collaborative and bipartisan way to see that this reform bill is signed into law.”

To view a copy of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, please visit the Senate Agriculture Committee website at http://www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill. A section-by-section summary of the bill is also available as well. A short summary of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act is below.

The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 reforms farm policy, consolidates and streamlines programs, and will reduce the deficit by $23 billion. This bill saves taxpayers money while strengthening initiatives that help farmers, ranchers and small business owners create American jobs. The bill:

Eliminates Direct Payments while Strengthening Risk Management
Farmers face unique risks unlike other businesses. Weather and market conditions outside a producer’s control can have devastating effects. A risk management system that helps producers stay in business through a few bad seasons ensures that Americans always have access to a safe and plentiful food supply. The proposal:
• Eliminates direct payments and three other subsidy programs. Farmers will no longer be paid for crops they are not growing, will not be paid for acres that are not actually planted, and will not receive support absent a drop in price or yields.
• Strengthens risk management and expands crop insurance access so farmers are not wiped out by a few days of bad weather.
• According to CBO, eliminating subsidies and strengthening crop insurance yields a net savings of $15 billion.

Consolidates and Streamlines Programs
By eliminating duplicative programs, funds are concentrated in the areas in which they will have the greatest impact, making them work better for producers.

• By ending duplication and consolidating programs, the bill eliminates dozens of programs under the Agriculture Committee’s jurisdiction.
• For example, the bill consolidates 23 existing conservation programs into 13 programs, while maintaining the existing tools farmers and landowners need to protect and conserve land, water and wildlife.

Improves Program Integrity and Accountability
At a time when many out-of-work Americans are in need for the first time in their lives, it is critical that every taxpayer dollar be spent responsibly and serves those truly struggling. By closing loopholes, tightening standards, and requiring greater transparency, the proposal increases efficiency and improves effectiveness.
• Increases accountability in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by:
o Stopping lottery winners from continuing to receive assistance.
o Ending misuse by college students.
o Cracking down on retailers and recipients engaged in benefit trafficking.
o Increasing requirements to prevent liquor and tobacco stores from becoming retailers.
o Eliminates misuse by states
• The Farm Bill does not cut standard benefits.
• The Farm Bill increases funding for food banks and for a non-profit partnership so SNAP recipients benefit values are doubled when they purchase healthy produce from farmers’ markets.

Grows America’s Agricultural Economy
The proposal increases efficiency and accountability, saving tens of billions of dollars overall, while strengthening agricultural jobs initiatives by:
• Expanding export opportunities and helping farmers develop new markets for their goods.
• Investing in research to help commercialize new agricultural innovations.
• Growing bio-based manufacturing (businesses producing goods in America from raw agricultural products grown in America) by allowing bio-manufacturers to participate in existing U.S. Department of Agriculture loan programs, expanding the BioPreferred labeling initiative, and strengthening a procurement preference so the U.S. government will select bio-based products when purchasing needed goods.
• Spurring advancements in bio-energy production, supporting advanced biomass energy production such as cellulosic ethanol and pellets from woody biomass for power.
• Helping family farmers sell locally by increasing support for farmers’ markets and spurring the creation of food hubs to connect farmers to schools and other community-based consumers.
• Extending rural development initiatives to help rural communities upgrade infrastructure and create an environment for small businesses to grow.

 

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