National Editor Tom KarstGood grief, that was quick. With markup and a vote, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed the farm bill out of committee today. Here is the release from Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow:
The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry today voted overwhelmingly to approve the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, a bipartisan Farm Bill authored by Committee Chairwoman Senator Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Senator Thad Cochran. The Committee voted in favor of the bill on a 15-5 vote.
The bill includes major reform in food and agricultural policy by ending direct payments and transitioning to responsible risk management tools that support farmers only when they have been impacted by disaster, saving taxpayers billions of dollars. Overall, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 will yield a total of over $23 billion dollars in spending cuts by eliminating unnecessary subsidies, consolidating programs to end duplication, and combating misuse and fraud in food assistance programs. These reforms allow for the strengthening of key initiatives that help farmers and small businesses reach new markets and create American jobs. The measure will now go to the full Senate for consideration.
Major features of the legislation:
- Eliminates direct payments
- Caps remaining risk management support at $50,000 per person
- Ends Farm Payments to Non-Farmers.
- Requires conservation compliance for crop insurance
- Strengthens crop insurance and expands access so farmers are not wiped out by bad weather
- Includes disaster relief for producers hurt by drought, spring freeze, and other weather disasters
- The bill consolidates 23 existing conservation programs into 13 programs—while maintaining existing tools to protect and conserve land, water and wildlife
- On Food stamps:
- Stopping lottery winners from continuing to receive SNAP assistance
- Preventing states from providing $1 per year in home heating assistance to individuals who do not have a heating bill for the sole purpose of providing extra benefits above what they would normally receive
- Ending misuse by college students whose families are not truly low-income
- Cracking down on retailers and recipients engaged in benefit trafficking
- Increasing requirements to prevent liquor and tobacco stores from accepting food assistance benefits
Check out the Senate farm bill page, with CBO scoring and amendments passed, here:
Attention now moves to the House, which has markup of their legislation tomorrow:
In other news this morning, the Center for Food Safety has served up a backhanded compliment to “industry front groups,” including the Alliance for Food and Farming. In a report called “The Best Public Relations that Money Can Buy.”
From the report:
"Also, the largest players in the food industry know that “Big Ag” and “Big Food” have become synonymous with bad, so they are no longer credible messengers. It’s better to create a front group that claims to represent farmers or consumers, two groups that are more sympathetic to the public. Similarly, industry knows that it has little credibility when it comes to complicated matters such as science."
In my view, it’s stretches credulity to say that groups like the Environmental Working Group have more credibility in “complicated science” than the university researchers assembled by the Alliance for Food and Farming to review the issue of pesticide residues. The Center for Food Safety should not begrudge farmers, big or small, the opportunity to tell their side of the story.