The Farm Bill represents billions of dollars in government expenditures that set the farm, food, and rural policy goals and priorities for the United States. After the 2012 Farm Bill failed Congress began working on the 2013 Farm Bill with hopes of a resolution. The Senate passed their version of the bill on June 20, 2013. The House was unable to come to a consensus and has decided to vote on an agriculture-only bill dropping food stamps and nutrition programs from the bill which will be voted on before the August recess.
Initiated in 1916, The Farm Bill is typically reauthorized every five years. The 2008 Farm Bill cost more than $288 billion over a five-year period. In 2012, the House failed to pass a companion version of the Senate bill; as a result, the 2008 Farm Bill was extended until September 2013. The Farm Bill has a major impact on farmers, consumers, rural communities, the natural environment, the 40-plus million people receiving food assistance, and global agribusiness. The Farm Bill provides opportunities for small-mid size farmers in terms of loan opportunities, research funding, and other valuable resources needed to survive as an agriculture stakeholder in the upcoming years.
What’s at Stake:
Without funding for these vital programs, small and mid-size farmers will find it more difficult to stay in business. These programs are designed to bring jobs to rural markets, create greater access to healthy foods, and provide microloans for emerging agri-business.
The year-end deal maintained $5 billion in direct payment subsidies for another year for energy-intensive, commodity production regardless of price and income conditions. Unfortunately, no such support was offered to specialty crops. The deal also continues to provide $16 billion in crop insurance, but neglects to include any environmental or climate mitigation standards as a condition of securing this support.
The House Rules Committee repealed the provision to revert the Farm Bill back to 1949 laws, meaning the House must come to a resolution before the August 2013 recess.
The Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill on June 10, 2013 by a bipartisan 67-22 vote. This bill would eliminate direct payments, expand government subsidies for crop insurance, and includes some support for small businesses. The Farm Bill is projected to save taxpayers more than $2.4 billion over the next five years.
Included in the Senate version were initiatives to support farmers and small businesses in reaching new markets. Training and access capital was also included to assist beginning farmers in getting their business off the ground.
Several amendments which ASBC supports, however, were not included in this version of the bill. One of those was an amendment to make it easier for farmers to receive microloans at $35,000 (S.AMDT.986). Another was the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (S.837); that would have enabled land, credit, and technical assistance for new producers. Finally, amendments were blocked that would have repealed the Farmer Assurance Provision (often referred to as the “Monsanto Protection Act); this provision would provide legal protection to companies that produce genetically modified organisms.
Of particular note is Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME)’s bill, the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act (H.R. 1414). This bill would increase access to locally farmed foods, provide more opportunities for farmers to get their products to local markets, and fund programs that support local agriculture in communities nationwide. A companion version (S. 679) has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
The House of Representatives failed to pass its version of the 2013 Farm Bill on June 20, 2013. The bill was voted down 234-195, with multiple Democrats and Republicans casting “no” votes. A major reason for its defeat was disagreement over the proposed cuts to the food stamp program. As of July 9, 2013 the House Rules Committee agreed to split the Farm Bill into two separate bills dropping food stamps and other nutrition programs. This split was introduced by Majority Leader Eric Cantor and supported by the House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK). The Rules Committee has also repealed the reversion to permanent law (1938 and 1949) from the Farm Bill meaning the House must vote on an agriculture-only bill before August recess.
Moving forward, Congress must continue to pursue a Farm Bill or thousands of farmers and ranchers will be without crop insurance payments, something they have been desperately waiting for over the past year. According to Senator Reid, “doing nothing means no reform, no deflect reduction, and no certainty for America’s 16million farm-industry workers.” The House must move forward with a resolution as soon as possible to fulfill their commitment to a 2013 Farm Bill.
While there were amendments proposed to both the Senate and House all amendments associated with GMO’s were rejected. In the Senate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) amendment to allow states to require the labeling of genetically modified organisms was voted down. The House version’s King Amendment to take away state’s rights to enact laws requiring labeling of foods with GMO’s was also defeated.
Moving forward, ASBC is committed to working with both the House and Senate and White House to secure funding for these and other essential programs as well as reducing commodity crop subsidies. ASBC is committed to supporting many of the amendments that were not included in the Farm Bill and hopes to see these bills move forward as stand-alone bills in the future.
Please join us in urging Congress to create a Farm Bill that provides opportunities for entrepreneurs and local and organic farmers moving into the agriculture sector in the coming years.
Let’s make sure our elected officials understand our concerns and priorities in building a sustainable food ecosystem.