Updated 7/12 9:31 a.m.
Late last night the House Agriculture Committee completed its farm bill mark-up and passed the bill by a vote of 35-11. Chairman Lucas is pleased with the progress saying that mark-up completion marks a "important step forward" in the development and writing of the 2012 farm bill. Speaking of the bill he says, "This is a balanced, reform-minded, fiscally responsible bill that underscores our commitment to production agriuclture and rural America, achieves real savings and improves program efficiancy."
Ranking member Collin Peterson urged House leadership to move on the legislative process in his statement at the mark-up completion. "The House leadership needs to bring the farm bill to the floor for a vote," he says. "We should not jeopardize the health of our rural economis which, by and large, have remained strong the last few years."
There are only 13 legislative days left before the August recess and the current farm bill expires on September 30. Bi-partisan lawmakers from both chambers agree the time to act on the bill is now. Senator Debbie Stabenow expressed her concern for passing the farm bill swiftly.
"With droughts and weather disasters plaguing America's agriuclture economy, failure to pass a Farm Bill or passing a short-term extension would add even more uncerainty and stress onto American farm famillies and small business," she says.
Today the House Agriculture Committee began mark-up of its version of the 2012 farm bill. FARRM or Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, drafted by Congressman Frank Lucas and House Ranking Member Collin Peterson, aims at reducing spending while providing farmers with adequate risk management tools.
"Our goal was to give producers choices to better manage risk, whether it is through improved crop insurance products, a new revenue program or through a price protection mechanism," Lucas says.
Lucas, a farmer and rancher, says "a safety net is written with bad times in mind." If that is true, then timing is perfect for lawmakers to seek stability for farmers. According to Lucas, the bill cuts spending by $35 billion, the largest chunk coming from nutrition reforms. While nutrition spending in this bill is cut by $16 billion, Lucas says it won’t affect families who need help.
"I’d like to be clear that this legislation will not prevent families that qualify for assistance under SNAP law from receiving their benefits," he says. "We are working to better target the program and improve its integrity so that families most in need can continue to receive nutrition assistance."
Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) doesn’t agree. "I am very concerned about some of the differences between the two bills—for example, rather than focusing on fraud and misuse like the Senate bill, the House bill takes far greater cuts in food assistance by changing eligibility rules so that some people truly in need will not receive the help their family needs," she says.
More on the House Farm Bill