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Legislative Update: Farm Bill Reaches Final Agreement

By Grace Boatright, National Grange Legislative Director (Grange Monthly Newsletter 1/31/14)

  JANUARY 31, 2014 --

On January 27th, House and Senate Farm Bill conferees reached a final agreement on H.R. 2642, aka- the Farm Bill, beginning the process of bringing it to the floor of both chambers for a vote.

Here are some brief bullet points about the new proposed conference report:

  • Contains 949 pages of text.
  • Speaker Boehner is supporting the proposed bill.
  • The bill’s largest opposition is currently coming from the meat industry due to the bill’s failure to repeal the rules surrounding country-of-origin labeling (COOL).
  • The bill achieves roughly $23 billion in savings over the next 10 years, a third of which is attributed to the nutrition title (SNAP).
  • Savings from SNAP mostly come from new proposed crack downs on the system of coorelating fuel assistance to low-income households with their food stamp eligibility.
  • The single largest savings come from ending the current system of direct cash payments to farmers, which cost more than $4 billion annually and are distributed at a fixed rate. This will make federal price support levels more significant.
  • The bill DOES maintain Farm Bill permanent law (the 1938 and 1949 Acts), which had been removed by the House’s version.
  • Conservation compliance requirements have a five-year grace period- meaning they could be completely thrown out or reworked during deliberations for the next Farm Bill.
  • The Dairy Market Stabilization Program has been removed from the bill. It has now been replaced with a new system that creates two different tiers of premium rates for milk producers- one for herds of 200 cows and below and one for those above. The rates for smaller-scale producers were lowered while those for the larger milk producers were increased to a point where the ratio is roughly one to three. The idea here is to discourage large producers from buying too much coverage, while making it easier for smaller operators to buy extra protection.

American agriculture has withstood uncertainty and economic instability for over two years in the absence of a renewed comprehensive Farm Bill. They’ve been unable to make valuable, long-term decisions regarding their businesses and unable to grant their households and local communities the resources they require moving forward. Today, however, we are happy to see that the needs of farmers and ranchers across the country – and the millions of people who benefit from their work – are being made a priority.

We need your help in stressing the importance of Farm Bill passage to our legislators on the Hill. Please contact your House and Senate representatives to urge final passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. Contact information for these offices can be found here: http://whoismyrepresentative.com. If you have any additional questions, please contact me at gboatright@nationalgrange.org.

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