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Ag Interests React To House Farm Bill

Ag, energy and conservation groups have generally positive feedback for House Ag Committee, though for some groups aspects of the bill don't meet muster

Published on: May 16, 2013

Farm groups generally supported the work of the House Agriculture Committee in passing a 2013 Farm Bill Wednesday, highlighting various policy priorities that were achieved and calling for more action on those that were not.

Title IX funding, conservation reforms, rural development provisions, and dairy were among the hot-button issues farm groups addressed in comments following the bill's passage. An amendment from Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, regarding product manufacturing and trade also raised eyebrows, as did miscellaneous crop insurance and subsidy reforms.

Ag, energy and conservation groups have generally positive feedback for House Ag Committee, though for some groups aspects of the bill dont meet muster
Ag, energy and conservation groups have generally positive feedback for House Ag Committee, though for some groups aspects of the bill don't meet muster

Commodity groups had mostly positive reviews of the committee's work to get a bill through, though the American Soybean Association and National Corn Growers weren't confident in some commodity and crop insurance programs.

NCGA President Pam Johnson noted that the target-price program "moves U.S. farm policy away from the market-oriented reforms that have made possible a robust rural economy." Johnson's sentiment was shared by Sen. Pat Roberts during the Senate markup Tuesday, indicating to some that the issue may not be over.

ASA President Danny Murphy voiced concern with planting distortions. "We remain concerned with the bill's inclusion of a price-based program under which payments are tied to current plantings, and the potential planting distortions this program could cause if market prices fall," he said.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition also criticized commodity programs, noting that the bill reinvests savings from the elimination of direct payments back into commodity and crop insurance subsidies.

"There is little farm program reform in the Agriculture Reform bill," said Ferd Hoefner, NSAC Policy Director.  "Not only does the House Committee bill fail to adopt many of the common sense reforms included in the Senate Committee bill, but it includes provisions to move in exactly the opposite direction, increasing subsidy limits, decreasing competition, weakening conservation, and driving agricultural policy further away from supporting family farms, rural communities, and the environment.  We intend to see that these failings get a second review when the bill heads to the House floor."

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The American Farm Bureau was more optimistic in its reaction. A statement from President Bob Stallman indicated the group was pleased with options that allow more flexibility and place more emphasis on crop insurance.

Focusing more broadly on a variety of amendments that came up in discussion Wednesday, the National Farmers Union was supportive of commodity title language, dairy policies and the conservation title. The group, however, was "disappointed" in an amendment to repeal provisions of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration.

Yet other groups were disappointed with the absence of several rural development programs and conservation measures.

The National Wildlife Federation, along with the NSAC, said the House Bill doesn't do enough to reduce subsidies for plowing up native prairie, and doesn't link insurance to conservation, even though the Senate proposal did.

"We are very disappointed that Chairman Lucas chose to leave out [the conservation-insurance link] supported by a broad coalition of conservation, agricultural and crop insurance interests," said Julie Sibbing, NWF director of Agriculture and Forestry Programs. "Failure to link these longstanding requirements to crop insurance premium subsidies could destroy more than a million wetlands in the Northern Great Plains, putting at risk North America's most important waterfowl breeding habitat."

In the miscellaneous title, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association applauded a measure that would prohibit states from setting product manufacturing standards for foods brought in from other states.

NCBA said the provision "would keep decisions regarding how to raise livestock and poultry in the hands of farmers and ranchers."

Despite the negative reaction to specific measures, groups supported the Committee's efforts overall to move action on the Farm Bill forward. Though the House isn't expected to vote on the bill until June, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., noted Thursday she was optimistic that the timeline for getting the Senate bill passed would be short.

Current estimates, Stabenow said, have the Senate bill being debated next week and a vote either before or directly after the Memorial Day holiday.