Jan 28, 2014
Committee reaches farm bill agreement

Top House and Senate agriculture committee leaders announced Jan. 27 a bipartisan agreement on a five-year farm bill that among other things would eliminate direct payments, revise commodity supports, enhance crop insurance, and streamline conservation programs.

The legislation was reported out of the House Rules Committee, setting up potential action on the House floor. The language could see a Senate vote as early as Jan. 28.

“We are putting in place sound policy that is good for farmers, ranchers, consumers, and those who have hit difficult times,” said Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. “I am proud of our efforts to finish a farm bill conference report with significant savings and reforms.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the agreement “a positive step in the right direction.” Boehner said the bill would save about $23 billion over 10 years, while including important reforms to farm and food stamp programs.

“While I hoped many of these reforms would go further, the status quo is simply unacceptable,” Boehner said. “This legislation, however, is worthy of the House’s support.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Senate would take up the bill within the next three weeks.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman, Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said she believes the conference report will have enough votes to clear both chambers.

“Today’s bipartisan agreement puts us on the verge of enacting a five-year farm bill that saves taxpayers billions, eliminates unnecessary subsidies, creates a more effective farm safety-net and helps farmers and businesses create jobs,” Stabenow said.

For specialty crop growers, Stabenow said the farm bill strengthens programs for producers of such crops as cherries, apples, blueberries and asparagus.

Along with expanding crop insurance to many fruit and vegetable growers for the first time and providing disaster relief, Stabenow said the farm bill also strengthens specialty crop block grants to invest in research and promotion of specialty crops, provides funding to help stop pest and disease threats, helps family farmers sell more goods locally, continues assistance to organic producers, and expands efforts to improve access to healthy foods in urban and low-income communities and in schools.

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