Because of the intersection of ag policy and the environment, I like to look at each Farm Bill as it crosses the plate. This bill is barely out of the box, but it's worth a peek to see what's coming down the line.
Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Pat Roberts released their co-authored legislation for the 2012 Farm Bill last Friday, April 20, 1012. The full committee will meet Wednesday, April 25, 2012 for purposes of considering and marking up the 2012 Farm Bill.
Stabenow’s office says the propesed bill reforms farm policy, consolidates and streamlines programs, and will reduce the deficit by $23 billion. “The bill saves taxpayers money while strengthening initiatives that help farmers, ranchers and small business owners create jobs.” Of course it does.
The press release says that, aside from supporting Mom, apple pie, and baseball, the legislation:
• Eliminates direct payments. Farmers will no longer be paid for crops they are not growing, will not be paid for acres that are not actually planted, and will not receive support absent a drop in price or yields.
• Consolidates two remaining farm programs into one, and will give farmers the ability to tailor risk management coverage—meaning better protection against real risks beyond a farmer’s control.
• Strengthens crop insurance and expands access so farmers are not wiped out by a few days of bad weather.
• By ending duplication and consolidating programs, the bill eliminates dozens of programs under the Agriculture Committee’s jurisdiction.
• For example, the bill consolidates 23 existing conservation programs into 13 programs, while maintaining the existing tools farmers and landowners need to protect and conserve land, water and wildlife.
Increases accountability in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by:
• Stopping lottery winners from continuing to receive assistance.
• Ending misuse by college students.
• Cracking down on retailers and recipients engaged in benefit trafficking.
• Increasing requirements to prevent liquor and tobacco stores from becoming retailers.
• Eliminating gaps in standards that result in overpayment of benefits.
• The proposal maintains benefits for families in need.
The proposal increases efficiency and accountability, saving tens of billions of dollars overall, while strengthening agricultural jobs initiatives by:
• Expanding export opportunities and helping farmers develop new markets for their goods.
• Investing in research to help commercialize new agricultural innovations.
• Growing bio-based manufacturing (businesses producing goods in America from raw agricultural products grown in America) by allowing bio-manufacturers to participate in existing U.S. Department of Agriculture loan programs, expanding the BioPreferred labeling initiative, and strengthening a procurement preference so the U.S. government will select bio-based products when purchasing needed goods.
• Spurring advancements in bio-energy production, supporting advanced biomass energy production such as cellulosic ethanol and pellets from woody biomass for power.
• Helping family farmers sell locally by increasing support for farmers’ markets and spurring the creation of food hubs to connect farmers to schools and other community-based consumers.
• Extending rural development initiatives to help rural communities upgrade infrastructure and create an environment for small businesses to grow.
As I said, that’s the party line. We will look at the reality in a future post.