Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee of Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry is holding a meeting of the full committee to discuss and mark up the 2012 Farm Bill proposal which made its way through the House last week. The committee will go page by page, line by line through the bill today in the Russell Senate Office Building, determining what amendments need to be made.
In her opening statement this morning, the Chairwoman reiterated how unique this Farm Bill is in the aspect that it has to be key in reducing the national deficit. She also hinted to farmers that direct payments could be eliminated.
"This Committee is unique. Our hearing room doesn’t have a raised dais; instead we sit together around a table, not unlike the tables that America’s farmers sit around after a long day’s work," Stabenow says. "The work we do around this table is hard. Farm Bills are never easy. And a Farm Bill like this is especially hard when we’re making serious and needed reforms while also cutting the deficit by $23 billion."
She hopes the Farm Bill will appeal to and assist farmers.
"We’ve listened to farmers, strengthened crop insurance and made that the centerpiece of risk management," she says. "We have a risk management tool that supplements crop insurance that will work for farmers and save money."
In this proposal Stabenow says, farmers have the flexibility to choose whether they use an individual system or a county system, depending on what is best for their farms and the challenges they face. She also says the new Bill proposal features the "tightest payment limits ever." She says that in the current proposal there is one limit on income set at $750,000 saying it will give farmers assistance when they need it based on what they plant. "The era of direct payments is over," she says.
Stabenow sums up the bill saying, "In short, we put together a bipartisan Farm Bill that’s focused on farmers and that gives them simplicity, flexibility and real accountability."
The mark up meeting is being streamed live at http://ag.senate.gov.
Chairwoman Stabenow's Summary of The Farm Bill Print
The Committee Print of the 2012 Farm Bill 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.
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. 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.
• Consolidates two remaining farm programs into one, and will give farmers the ability to tailor risk management coverage—meaning better protection against real risks beyond a farmer’s control.
• Strengthens crop insurance and expands access so farmers are not wiped out by a few days of bad weather.
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:
- Stopping lottery winners from continuing to receive assistance.
- Ending misuse by college students.
- Cracking down on retailers and recipients engaged in benefit trafficking.
- Increasing requirements to prevent liquor and tobacco stores from becoming retailers.
- Eliminating gaps in standards that result in overpayment of benefits.
- The proposal maintains benefits for families in need.
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.
You can download the full text of the print here.