For Immediate Release
July 12, 2012
Contact: Ferd Hoefner, 202-547-5754
NSAC Comments on House Agriculture Committee Markup and Passage
Washington, DC – The House Agriculture Committee voted a new farm bill out of committee early this morning by a vote of 35-11. The bill is projected to generate $35 billion in savings over the next decade by cutting $16 billion from nutrition programs and $6 billion from conservation programs, while increasing crop insurance subsidies and decreasing commodity subsidies for a net savings of $14 billion.
Overall Wednesday’s markup yielded some notable improvements to the bill for family farmers, rural communities, and the environment, but there were some big losses as well.
The Committee accepted a farm to school provision that provides greater flexibility to small rural schools and establishes pilot projects to allow schools to use program dollars from the USDA food distribution program to purchase produce from local farmers. “Thanks to the leadership of Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Renee Ellmers (R-NC), and Chris Gibson (R-NY), the bill now makes it easier for farmers to supply food to local school districts,” said Ferd Hoefner, NSAC Policy Director. “This is a triple win – for farmers, for children, and for communities.”
The Committee made a number of improvements to spur economic growth through local and regional agriculture. “NSAC applauds Representative Pingree’s commitment to expanding opportunities for farmers nationwide,” said Hoefner. “Thanks to her dedicated leadership, farmers across the country will have more tools to improve their bottom lines and provide consumers with fresh, healthy food.”
By adopting a series of amendments, the Committee improved the bill for beginning farmers and ranchers. “There is no agriculture without the next generation of farmers,” said Hoefner. “Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Tim Walz (D-MN), and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) led the charge to improve credit and training opportunities for new farmers. If Congress is serious about ensuring the future success of American agriculture, however, then these improvements must be matched with a stronger investment in beginning farmer training.”
While the Committee made some progress on these issues, it failed to put farm program reforms in the bill.
Although a nationwide Sodsaver provision was the subject of a bipartisan amendment with broad support from conservation, hunting, and farm organizations, the Committee did not vote on the amendment after Chairman Lucas (R-OK) and Representative Conaway (R-TX) voiced opposition. “By failing to enact the nationwide Sodsaver provision championed by Representatives Tim Walz (D-MN), Kristi Noem (R-SD),and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), the Committee condoned the use of taxpayer dollars to subsidize the destruction of native grass and prairie lands,” said Hoefner. “The Chairman’s defense of his strenuous opposition to the odsaver amendment as protecting property rights is laughable. Owning property should not guarantee one the right to public subsidies for actions that defeat the public interest.”
In a stunning move, the Committee repealed livestock and poultry farmer protections included in the 2008 Farm Bill, and undid the compromise on poultry protections arrived at just last year in the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations conference agreement. “By agreeing to an amendment by Representatives Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Jim Costa (D-CA) to repeal livestock and poultry farmer protections, the Committee threw America’s livestock and poultry producers under the bus,” noted Hoefner. “Adding more insult to injury, the Committee reneged on a broadly supported compromise to protect poultry growers from abusive behavior on the part of poultry processors.”
Representative Fortenberry proposed an amendment to place a $100,000 per year per farm cap on commodity subsides and to close the current payment limitation loopholes that attract widespread abuse and allow virtually unlimited payments, wasting taxpayer’s money and hurting the future of family farming. After speaking to the amendment, Fortenberry withdrew it with the promise that he would pursue it again when the bill reaches the House floor.
The bill contains serious flaws as it heads to the House floor. “The bill needs very significant improvements if it is going to emerge as a bill that expands opportunities for family farmers to produce good food, sustain the environment, and contribute to vibrant communities,” noted Hoefner. “We look forward to working with the full House to meet that objective.”
The bill now awaits a coveted spot on the House floor schedule. “We commend Chairman Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Peterson (D-MN) for their non-stop efforts to advance a full farm bill through the House before the bill expires at the end of September,” said Hoefner. “Echoing the call from farm, commodity, rural, conservation, and research groups from across the country, we urge the House leadership to bring the bill to the floor in the coming weeks.”
To read more about NSAC’s reaction to the Committee-passed bill, visit http://sustainableagriculture.