With broad bipartisan support, the United States Senate Thursday passed Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow's Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, also known as "the farm bill," by a vote of 64-35.
Senator Stabenow's farm bill is a historic reform that cuts over $23 billion dollars in spending by eliminating unnecessary direct payment subsidies, consolidating programs to end duplication, and cracking down on food assistance abuse. These reforms allow for the strengthening of agriculture initiatives that are helping Michigan farmers and agriculture businesses grow our economy.
News outlets have called the 2012 farm bill "one of the biggest changes to farm policy in years" (Wall St Journal, 6/7/12), "genuinely a landmark shift... toward a more market-oriented approach" (Politico, 6/12/12), and "one of the biggest policy changes in generations" (Bloomberg, 4/26/12)." And the Washington Post said the farm bill "cuts represent not only systemic reform but also more than twice the agriculture savings that the Simpson-Bowles commission proposed." (6/11/12)
"When we grow things here and make things here, we create jobs here in Michigan," said Senator Stabenow. "Agriculture supports nearly one in four Michigan jobs and 16 million jobs nationwide and passing this bill was critical for our economy.
Senator Stabenow continued, "This farm bill represents the greatest reform in agriculture in decades. Bipartisan compromise is all-too-rare in Washington, so it is heartening to earn support from both sides on a major bill that cuts spending and helps create jobs. It's good to know that when you bring people together Congress can still get something done."
The farm bill also includes Senator Stabenow's amendment to help Michigan fruit growers impacted this year by weather disaster. The amendment provides an opportunity for producers who do not have adequate access to crop insurance and lost crops due to frosts and freezes in Michigan and other states to purchase coverage in 2012 through the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.
Senator Stabenow was joined by top Agriculture Committee Republican Pat Roberts in introducing the bipartisan Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act. The Senate Agriculture Committee approved the bill on April 26 with a strong bipartisan vote of 16-5.
Spending cuts noted
The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 cuts spending by:
• Finally ending direct payment farm subsidies, meaning 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 be paid when they are already doing well. Instead farmers will only receive support in the face of actual price or yield drops. Crop insurance will be strengthened to ensure farmers are protected from being wiped out by a few days of bad weather;
• Cracking down on fraud and abuse in food assistance programs so resources are used for those who truly need them. For example, the proposal would take lotto winners off of food assistance, stop misuse by college students who are still dependent on non-low-income families, and crack down on benefit trafficking and help keep liquor stores from participating in the program;
• Making agriculture initiatives more cost-effective-eliminating more than 100 programs and authorizations in the agriculture committees' jurisdiction while still largely accomplishing the same goals and making programs easier to use. For example, 23 existing conservation programs are consolidated into 13 while still maintaining the same tools currently available to protect our land and water-even increasing investment in top priorities like Great Lakes Protection.
The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012helps farmers, ranchers and small business owners create jobs by:
• Expanding export opportunities to help farmers sell in new markets;
• Strengthening research and other initiatives to support innovation among American fruit and vegetable growers-particularly important to Michigan as our agriculture sector is based more on fruits and vegetables much more than most states;
• Helping family farmers sell locally, increasing support for farmers' markets and spurring the creation of food hubs to connect family farmers to schools and other community-based organizations;
• Providing training and access to capital to help beginning farmers to get off the ground.
• Creating initiatives to assist American veterans instarting agriculture businesses;
• Helping new bio-manufacturing businesses (which use agricultural products to replace petroleum-based plastics in manufactured goods) start, and existing ones expand;
• Spurring advancements in non-food-based bio-energy production;
• Extending rural development initiatives to help rural communities grow their economies.
A more detailed summary of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act is available here.
More information on the 2012 farm bill is available on the Senate Agriculture Committee's website: http://www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill.