On Monday (May 20) afternoon, the White House released the following statement regarding the farm bill passed by the Senate last week:
“The (Obama) administration supports Senate passage of S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013, and looks forward to working with the Congress to address the important concerns described below prior to final passage.
“The administration greatly appreciates the Senate's bipartisan efforts to enact a food, farm and jobs bill. With authorization for farm and food related programs set to expire this year, it is critical that the Congress pass legislation that provides certainty for rural America and includes needed reforms and savings. The new farm bill should promote rural development, preserve a farm safety net, maintain strong nutrition programs, encourage the development of local and regional markets, enhance conservation, honor our international trade commitments, including under the World Trade Organization, and advance agricultural research. In light of the nation's long-term fiscal challenge, the legislation should also contribute significantly to deficit reduction.
“The President's budget provides a strong safety net for farmers that protect agriculture from losses, while instituting needed risk-based reforms to reduce spending for some agricultural programs. The Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 makes meaningful progress toward supporting the administration's goals. Notable reforms include eliminating the direct payment system and tightening payment and eligibility requirements. The administration supports the Senate's efforts to consolidate and streamline conservation assistance, which will reduce administrative burdens on farmers and ranchers and improve environmental outcomes, and believes that crop insurance payments should be tied to the nation's soil conservation and wetland protection goals. The bill's funding for bioenergy programs will enhance our energy security while supporting innovation and growth in rural economies.
“Consistent with the President's budget, the administration looks forward to working with the Congress to achieve crop insurance and commodity program savings that are not contained in S. 954, while at the same time strengthening the farm safety net in times of need and supporting the next generation of farmers. The administration also strongly supports the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a cornerstone of our nation's food assistance safety net, which is why it was not subject to cuts in the President's budget. SNAP helps families put food on the table, while also benefitting farm and rural economies.”
Earlier in the day, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released the following statement regarding the progress of Congress towards passing a new farm bill:
"I am encouraged that Congress took action this week toward passage of a five-year, comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill.
“I appreciate the leadership of the Senate Agriculture Committee, in particular Chairwoman Stabenow and Senator Cochran, for their efforts in crafting bipartisan legislation. The bill would help revitalize the rural economy by supporting agricultural trade, local and regional food systems, renewable energy and biobased manufacturing. It would maintain a firm commitment to conservation while streamlining programs and linking crop insurance payments to the nation's soil conservation and wetland protection goals. USDA looks forward to working with the Senate to achieve significant deficit reduction by building on these reforms to farm programs.
“I also appreciate efforts by Chairman Lucas and Congressman Peterson to pass a bill out of the House Agriculture Committee. I am deeply concerned about portions of the House version of the bill, including significant cuts that would deny struggling families and their children access to food assistance. The (Obama) administration strongly supports the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a cornerstone of our Nation's food assistance safety net, which is why it was not subject to cuts in the President's budget. SNAP helps families put food on the table, while also benefitting farm and rural economies. These issues need to be resolved so Congress can achieve passage of a final Food, Farm and Jobs Bill without delay. USDA remains committed to working with Congress to get the strongest bill possible for all Americans."