House Ag Committee Vote Hears Mixed Reaction

House Ag Committee Vote Hears Mixed Reaction

Groups file mixed reactions on the House Ag Committee FARRM Act passage.

Passage of the House Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM) brought support and criticism from many in the agriculture industry, with supporters citing the committee's effort to keep the bill intact, and others criticizing deep nutrition and conservation cuts.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and the American Soybean Association stood behind the bill.

AFBF President Bob Stallman said he was aware that farmers weren't going to receive everything they had hoped for in the bill, but commended the House Ag Committee's action on risk management and marketing solutions.

Groups file mixed reactions on the House Ag Committee FARRM Act passage.

"For more than a year, we have been advocating farm policy that protects and strengthens risk management programs for all farmers," Stallman said. "This legislation maintains proven program features such as the marketing loan provision and strengthens the crop insurance program while setting a clear example of fiscal responsibility."

ASA also appreciated the risk management and crop insurance programs, and said the group was encouraged by House Ag Committee efforts.

"ASA continues to support provisions in the House bill that reauthorize and fund trade and market development programs, as well as agricultural research programs," said Steve Wellman, ASA president.

The National Sorghum producers also supported the bill, saying it "maintains solid protection for America's farmers and ranchers."

Though most commodity groups were relatively pleased with the 35-11 approval, the National Corn Growers wasn't among them.

NCGA President Garry Niemeyer said the organization was "disappointed" and was expecting significant changes to include a more viable market-oriented risk management program in the bill. 

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SNAP Cuts Receive Criticism

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the Environmental Working group were among those that weren't too happy with the nutrition portion of the FARRM act.

Vilsack said the bill's SNAP cuts will deny much-needed food assistance to 3 million Americans and will also reduce farm income.

"These cuts wouldn't just leave Americans hungry," Vilsack said, "they would stunt economic growth."

The Environmental Working Group said the the ag committee took a big step backwards with their approval, and that it was "quite simply the worst piece of food and farm legislation in recent memory."

"With the U.S government in a deep fiscal crisis, the committee's farm bill increases unlimited subsidies for the largest and most profitable farm businesses. As millions of families struggle to put food on the table, the bill cuts funding for critical nutrition assistance programs by $16.1 billion," Scott Faber, vice president for government affairs at EWG, said.  

Conservation, Energy Programs Not Satisfactory for Some

Further, both the EWG and Vilsack commented on the conservation provisions in the bill, which decrease the number of conservation programs.

Vilsack said the bill makes "misguided reductions" to energy and conservation program efforts.

EWG is concerned that wildlife habitats and water supplies are "under unprecedented assault by industrial agriculture" and that the bill "guts" regulation of pesticides and genetically modified crops.

Yet, another conservation group, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, was generally satisfied with the bill.

"Despite budget constraints imposed on the committee, the bill's conservation title supports a range of programs reflective of sportsmen's values," said Steve Kline, director of the TRCP Center for Agricultural and Private Lands.

He said that key fish and wildlife habitats were supported in bill, but the group voiced criticism regarding sodsaver programs.

"Sportsmen remain committed to making the sodsaver program national in scope," said Dave Nomsen, vice president of government affairs for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, both TRCP partner groups.

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Dairy Program Unchanged

The dairy program received a mixed reaction from the National Farmers Union , the National Milk Producers and International Dairy Foods Association.

While NFU remains "skeptical" of the supply management program in the bill, the group said that the "one thing that would certainly make the program wholly ineffective is allowing dairies to increase production unchecked. Eliminating the supply management provision would be disastrous and would lead to a repeat of the low prices the industry has seen in recent years."

NMPF commended the committee members for retaining the "carefully-crafted" economic compromises that went into the creation of the dairy program in the Farm Bill.

IDFA, however, is more than skeptical of the dairy programs included in the farm bill. The group led a charge prior to vote to pass the Goodlatte-Scott amendment, which would have removed the Market Stabilization or "supply management" portion from the dairy programs.

Connie Tipton, IDFA president and CEO, said that the organization was encouraged by the vote on the amendment and believes chances are good for winning a vote on the House floor.

Sugar Reform Falls Short

Another amendment offered by Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to strike down the standing sugar program in the FARRM Act was voted down, much to the dismay of sugar reform supporters.

The Coalition for Sugar Reform, a group that strongly supported the amendment, said, "The fight for sugar reform is far from over. We know that reform-minded members of the House are committed to pressing for sugar reform on the floor, and we will redouble our efforts to urge Congress to enact reforms."

The American Sugar Alliance, however, said the existing policy is of no-cost to taxpayers, and praised the committee for defeating Goodlatte's amendment.

Additional Action Encouraged

Despite quick action by the House Ag Committee, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow urged additional action.

"Now that the House Agriculture Committee has acted, House leadership should swiftly bring this bill to the floor. With droughts and weather disasters plaguing America's agriculture economy, failure to pass a Farm Bill or passing a short-term extension would add even more uncertainty and stress onto American farm families and small businesses," Stabenow said.

AFBF President Bob Stallman agreed. "As the congressional calendar ticks down, time is of the essence," he said.  "There are very few days remaining for this bill to be completed, but we need a new farm bill this year. We are committed to working with members of Congress to secure a bill that works for all Americans."

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