Update: House Ag Committee Advances Farm Bill

After several hours of debate – the House Agriculture Committee approved the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act. The vote was 35 to 11. Chairman Frank Lucas says committee passage marked an important step forward in the development of the next farm bill. He says the legislation is balanced, reform-minded, fiscally responsible and underscores a commitment to production agriculture and rural America. According to Lucas – the bill achieves real savings and improves program efficiency. Ranking Member Collin Peterson notes the current farm bill expires September 30th and there are only 13 legislative days before the August recess. He says the House leadership needs to bring the farm bill to the floor for a vote – not jeopardize the health of rural economies. Peterson says the nation’s farmers and ranchers need the certainty of a new five year farm bill – and they need it before the existing bill ends.

As the committee opened consideration of the measure Wednesday – Chairman Lucas said as a farmer and rancher he knows how risky it is to make a living as a farmer. He noted checking the weather multiple times each day because a dream crop can turn into a disaster at a moment’s notice. That’s why he said the goal of the FARRM Act was to give producers choices to better manage risk – whether through improved crop insurance products, a new revenue program or a price protection mechanism. Lucas said farm bill programs should not guarantee that the good times are the best – but that the bad times are manageable.

According to Lucas – the FARRM Act provides deficit reduction and reform. It’s tough – but fair. He said the measure is a culmination of years of work – including comprehensive audit hearings, field hearings in the countryside and a hearing series in the nation’s capital with agricultural leaders. Lucas said the information gathered from those hearings led the committee to consideration of policy that works for all regions and all crops and increases program efficiency, integrity and accountability.

Ranking Member Collin Peterson has stressed the importance of completing the 2012 Farm Bill and sending it to the President before the 2008 bill expires at the end of September several times – including at the start of the committee meeting Wednesday. Then he told members they can’t wait for the lame duck – and added that an extension of current farm policy potentially creates more problems than it solves.

On the bill’s merits – Peterson said he was pleased to see a commodity title that will work for all parts of the country, continued support for the no-cost sugar program and his Dairy Security Act that would reform current dairy programs. But Peterson has concerns with proposed changes to nutrition programs. He said there are better, more responsible ways to improve and reform federal nutrition programs. Still – Peterson said the bottom line was the legislation needed to move – and he understood the cuts were needed in order to get the farm bill through Committee and through the House floor.

Source: NAFB News Service

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