Stabenow Releases Some 2012 Farm Bill Draft Info

April 20, 2012 07:44 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Stabenow releases summary of 2012 Farm Bill Committee print. Click here to view the print.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

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:

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 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.

Comments: This is one of the weakest summaries of a coming bill I have seen. This general summary is just that -- general. It lacks specifics on key issues such as the consolidation of two remaining farm programs (presumably ACRE and SURE, but again, not specified) and strengthening of crop insurance. It does say there will be no direct payments, but the summary is mum on things like a specific program for cotton, whether there are target/reference prices and whether other farm program components such as marketing loans would continue. Others are reading this thin document as signaling there are no target prices under the new approach. So there’s a point that needs some clearing up as some sources signal that target prices are not in the draft bill, but a STAX program is provided for cotton producers. We will seek confirmation of this.

Some components of the effort last fall for the failed Super Committee effort apparently are there, such as consolidating 23 conservation programs into 13. Several efforts to improve SNAP operations which are aimed at a favorite congressional topic -- waste, fraud and abuse – but it does state it maintains benefits for families in need. The most "detail" appears under rural development areas where biofuels are mentioned.
There are also said to be different payment structures for the revenue assurance payments based on whether a producer chooses on-farm or area (likely county) revenue triggers. Also, there is no minimum price or price protection in the revenue programs as there was in the 11 bill. 
The research title will establish a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research modeled after a similarly successful Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. 
In a last-minute change, several easement programs most notably the FRPP will reportedly receive "plus-ups" from the levels agreed upon in the Super Committee recommendations. 
A gross margin dairy support program with a voluntary dairy supply management program if needed is supposedly in the coming details, but this needs to be confirmed.


The key now obviously is the legislative language that goes with this Committee Print. That when the real nuts and bolts assessment of what is in or not in the effort will become much clearer.


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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