On June 10 the U.S. Senate passed this year’s version of a bipartisan Farm Bill. It looks a lot like last year’s.
Ohio’s two senators split their votes. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee voted yes. Sen. Rob Portman voted no, citing disagreement with the final bill’s language on counter-cyclical payments and his belief that the final bill does not cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps) enough.
“One in seven Ohio jobs is related to food and agriculture. By eliminating direct payments, improving crop insurance, and boosting local food production and biobased manufacturing, the Senate has taken the first step toward sending to the President a five-year farm bill,” Brown said.
“This bill saves more than $24 billion while maintaining important investments in conservation, nutrition, renewable energy, and rural development. Farmers across Ohio have told me they want a leaner, more efficient, and market-oriented farm safety net. Taxpayers deserve that too. This bill will reduce wasteful spending while investing in critical development projects that will strengthen our communities and support rural economies,” Brown added.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson praised the Senate’s final bipartisan vote (66-27) and asked the House to move quickly on its version of the bill.
“NFU urges the U.S. House of Representatives to follow suit with expeditious floor consideration and passage of its version of the legislation. NFU looks forward to working with both chambers of Congress through a conference committee to complete a comprehensive, five-year farm bill before current legislation expires on Sept. 30,” Johnson said.
From the Senate Ag Committee, a few Farm Bill highlights:
Direct Payments/Risk Management
- Eliminates direct payments. Farmers will no longer receive payments when prices are rising and support is not needed. Ending these subsidies and creating responsible risk management is a major shift in American farm policy
- Caps remaining risk management support at $50,000 per person
- Ends Farm Payments to Non-Farmers. This bill closes the “management loophole,” through which people who were not actually farming—in many cases not even setting foot on the farm—were designated as farm “managers” so they could receive farm payments
- Requires conservation compliance for crop insurance, which will protect both the farm safety net and the natural resources that our nation’s farmers and ranchers will need for generations to come
- 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
- Reforming farm programs, ending direct payments and implementing market-oriented programs to help farmers manage risk saves $16 billion dollars ($12 billion in the bill, $4 billion through sequestration)
- The bill consolidates 23 existing conservation programs into 13 programs—while maintaining existing tools to protect and conserve land, water and wildlife
- Streamlining programs provides added flexibility and focuses conservation around four primary functions: working lands conservation, the Conservation Reserve Program, regional partnerships, and easements to help prevent sprawl and protect wetlands
- These reforms save money while still increasing resources for top priorities
- Because we are truly doing more with less, changes to conservation policies are supported by nearly 650 conservation organizations from all 50 states
- Stopping lottery winners from continuing to receive 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
- The above savings reduce the deficit while continuing support for food banks, seniors’ food programs and healthy school lunch initiatives
- Export opportunities to help farmers find new global markets for their goods
- Help for family farmers to sell locally, increasing support for farmers’ markets and spurring the creation of food hubs to connect farmers to schools and other community-based organizations
- Training and access to capital to make it easier for beginning farmers to get off the ground
- Initiatives to help American veterans start agriculture businesses
- Growth in bio-based manufacturing (businesses producing goods in America from raw agricultural products grown in America) to create rural agriculture and urban manufacturing jobs
- Innovation in bio-energy production, supporting non-food based advanced biomass energy production such as cellulosic ethanol and woody biomass power
- Research to promote the commercialization of new agricultural innovations
- Rural development initiatives to help rural communities upgrade infrastructure, extend broadband internet availability and create a better environment for small businesses