On Wednesday, Senate Agriculture Committee leadership urged the Senate to swiftly pass the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (the farm bill), which reforms agriculture policy and saves more than $23 billion in taxpayer money by streamlining and consolidating programs and ending unnecessary farm subsidies.
While saving taxpayer dollars, the bill strengthens initiatives that help America’s agriculture economy continue creating jobs. The measure was adopted by the committee on a strong bipartisan vote of 16-5 in April and is now being considered by the full Senate.
“This bill represents commonsense and responsible reforms that will save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars while strengthening key initiatives that will allow our economy to continue growing and creating jobs,” Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “This bill has garnered widespread praise from hundreds of farm, food and conservation organizations for its common sense reforms, deficit reduction, and investments in our economic future. The 2008 farm bill is set to expire at the end of September -- we must pass this commonsense bill immediately to give farmers the certainty they need to continue growing the economy. Sixteen million American jobs rely on agriculture. The time for reform is now.”
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“We’ve performed our duty to taxpayers by cutting deficit spending while at the same time strengthening and preserving the programs so important to agriculture and rural America,” said Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, ranking member. “We’ve cut mandatory spending by $23.6 billion. We’ve reformed, eliminated and streamlined USDA programs to the tune of more than 100 programs and authorizations eliminated. We’ve done it on a voluntary basis and in a bipartisan fashion. Simply put, this bill is commonsense reform and needs to be approved now to provide certainty for our farmers and ranchers to make planning decisions and to help our economic recovery.”
Chairwoman Stabenow and Roberts were joined by new and beginning farmers who expressed their support for the 2012 farm bill, highlighting how key provisions in the bill will help to usher in the next generation of American farmers and continue growing the U.S. economy.
“Losses are tough on any producer, but especially catastrophic for a beginning farmer who is still trying to build up equity,” said Ben LaCross, a cherry grower from Cedar, Mich. “I wish the 2012 farm bill reported out by your committee was in place today. It is a good bill for young and beginning farmers and ranchers. If the bill were in existence today, I would have the opportunity to cover more of my crops through crop insurance. In years like this one my production is going to be almost zero. Crop insurance helps keep families like mine in business.”
“There are many other young dairy farmers like me who want to keep their family’s farms going, but it’s a tough business,” said Sarah Leonard, a dairy farmer from Midland, Va. “This legislation is not just about the next five years, but the next generation of farmers in America. That’s what is at stake this month. We need certainty to make smart business decisions. Waiting until the last minute or passing patchwork, short-term extensions creates uncertainty and takes a big toll on us.”
“As a farmer and taxpayer, I am pleased to see the new farm bill reduces the federal deficit and makes the necessary reforms for the next generation,” said Lyle Pugh, a corn grower from Chesapeake, Va. “I hope one day to have the opportunity to pass our farm to our son so he can also enjoy the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment of planting, protecting, and harvesting a crop. We work hard to make our farming operation efficient, environmentally responsible, and profitable.”
The Senate’s bipartisan bill represents significant reform of American agriculture policy. By ending four different commodity subsidy programs (direct payments, counter-cyclical payments, the SURE program and the ACRE program), the bill achieves billions in savings while strengthening responsible, market-based risk management tools that prevent farmers -- and farm jobs -- from being wiped out because of weather disaster or market volatility.
Through streamlining programs, the bill consolidates 23 conservation programs into 13 easier-to-use initiatives -- a commonsense approach that is being supported by nearly 650 environmental groups in all 50 states, which will mean less erosion, cleaner water and healthier wildlife habitats. Additionally, the bill increases efficiency and accountability while strengthening agricultural jobs initiatives by expanding export opportunities, investing in research, growing bio-based manufacturing, spurring innovation in bio-energy production, helping family farmers sell locally, strengthening our commitment to fruit and vegetable and organic farmers, and extending rural development initiatives.