Senate approves farm bill 64-35

Senate approves farm bill 64-35

• In somewhat of a surprise move the Senate has approved its version of the 2012 farm bill. Response was rapid.

The U.S. Senate Thursday approved the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act (2012 farm bill) by a vote of 64-35..

Response was immediate. A sampling can be found below:

National Corn Growers Association

The National Corn Growers Association congratulates the Senate on passage of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act (2012 farm bill). The legislation was agreed to by a vote of 64-35. NCGA also urges the House of Representatives to take action quickly.

“America’s farmers greatly appreciate the leadership and cooperative work by the Senate to pass the 2012 farm bill in a timely manner,” NCGA President Garry Niemeyer said.  

“We would also like to thank Senators Stabenow and Roberts for their bipartisan efforts throughout the process. We have been calling on Congress to pass the new legislation before the current law expires on Sept 30. NCGA is pleased to see this significant hurdle has been overcome.”

NCGA has advocated for an affordable crop insurance program as well as a farm program that would provide risk management tools to growers when they are facing a loss beyond their control. NCGA has also encouraged farm policy reforms that will be responsive to taxpayers and effective in helping farms remain viable and productive.

“Our focus now turns to the House Agriculture Committee with hopes they will schedule a markup of their version of the farm bill for immediately following the July 4th recess,” Niemeyer said.  

“We look forward to continuing our work with agriculture advocates to pass a new common sense, reformed 2012 farm bill before Congress recesses in August.”

American Farmland Trust

American Farmland Trust (AFT) today hailed the passage of the Senate farm bill, and urged Congress to retain funding for conservation as the legislation moves through the House of Representatives.  

AFT President Jon Scholl said, “Congratulations are due to Chairman Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Pat Roberts for their diligence in crafting this farm bill and moving it through the Senate under extremely difficult circumstances. Completing the farm bill this year is essential to continue the gains we’ve made to protect America’s working farmlands.  We urge the House to follow suit in passing this critical legislation.”

AFT is also extremely pleased that the Chambliss amendment to reattach conservation compliance to crop and revenue insurance was adopted. “Since 1985, compliance has been a successful part of farm policy,” noted Scholl.  

“As crop and revenue insurance becomes the core of agriculture’s financial safety net, we need to retain the same commitment to conservation that has been a part of past farm programs.”

Scholl added, “We appreciate how Senators Stabenow and Roberts have cooperated in bipartisan fashion to move the bill forward.”

“AFT has worked extensively with Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, the Committee’s senior Republican, on a number of priority reforms to conservation programs in the farm bill.   

“We particularly applaud the inclusion of the new agricultural land easement component, patterned after the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP), which now includes many of the functions of the Grasslands Reserve Program, as well.

“Agricultural land easements will work through state and local partners to provide permanent protection to working agricultural lands.”

AFT further noted that the Senate adopted by unanimous consent language offered by Senators Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) that specifically supports the role of land trusts and state agencies who work with USDA in protecting farm and ranch lands through this program.   

Another priority for AFT has been the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which allows conservationists and agricultural producers to address priority natural resource concerns in critical areas, especially acute water quality and quantity concerns.

“All together, these reforms in the title provide more comprehensive and efficient tools for conservation – while also providing an important step toward deficit reduction.  

“Overall, the Senate farm bill contributes $23 billion in deficit reduction over 10 years.  More than one-quarter of the spending cuts, however, result from program reforms and reductions to programs in the Conservation Title,” said Scholl.

Scholl stated that conservation programs “have shouldered a significant  share of cuts to aid deficit reduction,” noting that that the health of America’s soil and water, which relies upon these programs, is essential to the long term productivity and economic viability of agriculture.

Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA) applauded the passage of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 in the Senate today.

The 64-35 vote comes after a two-day consideration of more than 70 amendments, pared down from the nearly 300 that were submitted.

The bill addresses many of the critical priorities outlined by the SCFBA and continues the support of specialty crops that was established in the 2008 farm bill.

“We appreciate the hard work of Majority Leader Reid, Republican Leader McConnell, Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, and Ranking Member Roberts for getting this challenging but vital farm bill over the Senate finish line,” said John Keeling, National Potato Council executive vice-president and CEO and co-chair of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance.

“The policies of the farm bill passed by the Senate will help protect the tens of thousands of jobs associated with the specialty crop industry and will help create more. And it further strengthens the access of all Americans to the specialty crops that enhance their daily lives.  

“We look forward to ensuring the voices of employers, workers and families dependent on a strong specialty crop industry are heard as the House makes progress on its farm bill.”

"At a time when it's critically important for Americans to be eating more fruits and vegetables, Senate passage of this bill is great news for consumers," said Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association and co-chair of the Alliance.

"Besides preserving jobs, it helps to ensure access to a plentiful supply of healthful specialty crops. What's more, this bill addresses some of the continual significant challenges specialty crop growers face in the production and marketing of their crops in an increasingly global marketplace. We look forward to working with the House as it takes up its version of the bill."

“For specialty crop producers across the country the farm bill represents an opportunity to create a healthier life for Americans across the country,” said Tom Nassif, president and CEO, Western Growers and co-chair of the Alliance.

“Farm Bill funding helps fuel innovations in farming that will help our producers grow and harvest an abundant supply of specialty crops utilizing fewer natural resources.

“This is an opportunity to help our industry in the short- and long-term as well as help secure the jobs of millions of American workers who support agriculture and reduce the federal deficit.

“Now that the Senate has completed its work, we look forward to seeing Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson move the farm bill through the House Agriculture Committee.”

Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation

“The bipartisan farm bill approved today by the Senate (S.3240) provides farmers improved risk management tools consistent with Farm Bureau's core principles.

“While no farm bill is perfect, this is a solid bill that was worthy of Senate approval. The bill includes important reforms and is fiscally responsible, while including important provisions to enhance crop insurance, maintain a viable marketing loan program and minimize the potential for farm program provisions to drive producer decisions.

“There is still a lot of hard work ahead to fully secure the kind of policy we believe our farm and ranch families need, but we applaud the Senate for approving a workable bill and moving this process forward.

“The Senate has provided us solid footing by approving a bill that stands firm on $23 billion in savings, yet protects and strengthens the federal crop insurance program and provides a commodity title that attempts to encourage producers to follow market signals rather than make planting decisions in anticipation of government payments.

“Now our attention turns to the House Agriculture Committee, which will begin its farm bill legislative activity in July. It remains critical for farmers to know what their new farm bill will be as they begin thinking about and looking toward next year’s cropping decisions.

“Farm Bureau remains committed to ensuring farmers have the tools they need to manage risks and minimizing the limitations imposed on farmers regardless of the size or type of their operations. And we are convinced that having a new farm bill in place this year is overwhelmingly in the best interest of our members.”

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Vice-President Colin Woodall

 “Like many of us who have a vested interest in this legislation (S. 3240), I was pleasantly surprised by the bipartisan efforts made to move this bill through the Senate very efficiently and without much partisan rhetoric.

Both Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Minority Leader Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) should be commended for their leadership on this very important piece of legislation. Their transparency and willingness to listen to all vested interests was very refreshing for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other like-minded organizations. NCBA stands firm in our commitment to support this legislation.

“Although the amendment process was certainly concerning in its early stages, all is well for cattlemen and women thanks to their outspoken grassroots advocacy. This legislation, as written, incorporates all NCBA priorities. Bottom-line, there is no livestock title, conservation programs — specifically EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) – are maintained and the research title is sustained. All this is done with more than $20 billion in savings to the American taxpayer.

“We support this legislation and will continue working with the House to ensure amendments that would interject the federal government into production agriculture are left out of the legislation or soundly defeated.

“As we focus our efforts on working with the House Committee on Agriculture to ensure another version of this legislation that is positive for cattlemen, I must stress the importance of family farmers and ranchers being engaged in this process.”

National Sustainable agriculture Coalition

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition supported passage of the farm bill as amended after three days of Senate debate.

“NSAC congratulates Senate leaders for moving ahead with this bipartisan legislation,” said Ferd Hoefner, NSAC Policy Director. 

“This debate and vote were important hurdles to overcome for Congress to pass a full reauthorization before the current bill expires on Sept. 30.”

While the bill includes historic commodity payment limit reforms and renewed investments in a variety of sustainable farm and food programs, the Senate-passed bill is far from perfect. 

“The bill would benefit greatly from more agriculture reform, a greater local and regional food focus, and a much greater commitment to economic development and jobs,” said Hoefner. 

“We are also disappointed with the $3.7 billion cut to conservation programs on working farms and ranches.”

Several major amendments adopted by the Senate made significant improvements to the bill.

“Senate adoption of amendments by Senator Brown (D-Ohio) on rural development and beginning farmers, Senator Chambliss (R-Ga.) on soil and wetland conservation, and Senators Durbin (D-Ill.) and Coburn (R-Okla.) on crop insurance subsidy limits brought the bill more in line with the ‘reform’ and ‘jobs’ in its title,” said Hoefner. 

“These amendments, along with others like Senator Merkley's (D-Ore.) on crop insurance for organic farmers and Senator Grassley's (R-Iowa) on commodity payment limit reform, significantly improved the bill. Without passage of these amendments, we could not have supported passage of the final bill.”

All of these improvements would not have happened without significant citizen engagement in the process.  “NSAC thanks all of the farmers and grassroots activists who took action in support of reform and a sustainable farming future,” said Hoefner. 

“Without the countless calls and e-mails from people doing the hard work of building sustainable food systems in their communities, many of the reforms in the bill would not have been included,” noted Hoefner.

All eyes now turn to the House of Representatives. The House Agriculture Committee this week announced a delay in their consideration of the bill, but Chairman Lucas (R-Okla.) said he will move “hell or high water” on the farm bill after the July 4 recess.

House Majority Leader Cantor (R-Va.), however, has not listed the farm bill for potential action on the House floor this summer and is quoted this week saying he wants to “push the pause button” on the bill and assess the political situation.

“Our message to the House leaders is very simple,” said Hoefner. 

“Now is not the time to hit the pause button, now is the time to roll up your sleeves and get the bill done on time and in proper order. 

“The current farm bill expires on Sept. 30, giving the House exactly 17 legislative days to take up and pass the bill before expiration, assuming Committee passage the week of July 9. 

“The hour is late. It is not yet time to hit the panic button, but the hand must come off the pause button or there will be no bill this year.”

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

"I’m very pleased the Senate acted in bipartisan spirit today to approve the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act.

“I am grateful for the Senate’s progress toward providing a reformed safety net for producers in times of need, supporting agricultural research and trade promotion, honoring World Trade Organization commitments, furthering the bio-based economy, conserving our natural resources, strengthening local and regional food systems, and promoting job growth in rural America. 

“As the legislative process moves forward, the Administration will continue to seek policy solutions and savings consistent with the President’s Budget, and we are hopeful that the House of Representatives will produce a bill with those same goals in mind.  
“Swift action is needed so that American farmers and ranchers and our rural communities have the certainty they need to continue strengthening the rural and national economy."

National Cotton Council

“The cotton industry has reservations about a number of provisions in the Senate-passed legislation, but believes the cotton title will facilitate successful resolution of the cotton component of the Brazil WTO dispute.

“The cotton industry looks forward to working with the leaders of the House Agriculture Committee and Cotton Belt members as they develop their version of new farm legislation.

“It is clear U.S. cotton farmers are willing to make a significant contribution to deficit reduction and are committed to reform farm policy in a way that allows them to manage risks that are beyond their control.

“It is important for Congress to complete and the President to sign, in a timely manner, new farm legislation that is balanced, stable and predictable.”

National Association of Wheat Growers

NAWG President Erik Younggren, farmer from Hallock, Minn. commended the Senate for moving forward with the legislation.

“This will provide policy certainty for hundreds of thousands of U.S. farmers and one in 12 American job earners who rely on agriculture.”

"This bill is about standing up for our nation's farmers, our small businesses, our manufacturers, our exporters and others whose livelihoods depend on us getting the policy right," said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

In addition to reauthorizing the nation’s food and farm programs, the chamber’s version calls on the Office of Management and Budget and the Pentagon to report on how sequestration expected in January 2013 will be implemented. 

“American agriculture and those who depend on it around the globe need a farm bill” said Senate Committee on Agriculture Majority Leader Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).

“They need to know what to expect from the federal government to make planning decisions, to be assured of a safe and affordable food supply, and to know that their businesses and families will have the opportunity to thrive. I take this responsibility seriously.”

More about NAWG’s farm bill work is at

American Soybean Association

"ASA is extremely pleased with the Senate's legislation, which would establish an effective risk management program for soybean producers that complements crop insurance, consolidate conservation programs, and have agriculture do its fair share to help address our nation's fiscal situation by reducing government spending on agriculture by $23 billion," said ASA President Steve Wellman, a soybean farmer from Syracuse, Neb.

"We look forward to working with the House Agriculture Committee as it finalizes its version of this legislation, so the 2012 farm bill can be completed this year."

Major provisions supported by ASA include the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program under which revenue losses exceeding 11 percent will be partially offset at either the farm or county level. ASA also supported the consolidation of conservation programs for environmentally sensitive and working lands, reduction of Conservation Reserve Program acres from 32 to 25 million acres, and reauthorization and funding of the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program.    

In its review of the farm bill, the Senate considered a total of 73 amendments, including several that ASA strongly opposed and that were defeated:

• An amendment by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) that would have made national check-off programs voluntary lost on a vote of 20-79.

• An amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) that would have reduced annual funding for MAP from $200 to $160 million lost on a vote of 30-69.

• An amendment by Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) to authorize states to require mandatory labeling of biotech food products lost on a vote of 26-73.

"While ASA disagrees with some of the amendments that were approved on the floor of the Senate, on the whole ASA believes the Senate's farm bill will help farmers manage risk, conserve natural resources and develop foreign markets," Wellman stated.

"Additionally, maintaining the viability of the crop insurance program as an effective risk management tool is a top priority for ASA and soybean farmers. ASA will continue to work with the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to ensure that the viability of the crop insurance program as a risk management tool is not weakened."  

Wellman concluded, "ASA thanks Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Pat Roberts for their leadership in guiding the farm bill through the Senate. We urge the House to move forward so the 2012 farm bill process can be completed before current program authorities expire at the end of September." 



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