Farm Bill cultivated in Congress

Farm Forum

While farmers are struggling to get seeds in the ground and ranchers are moving livestock to pasture, Congress is stepping closer to piecing together the 2013 Farm Bill.

Issues, some big and some small, still divide lawmakers and the process will take time. Ag leaders hope that progress is completed by the Sept. 30 deadline. Reducing the deficit and creating millions of jobs are listed among the benefits to the country.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Ag Committee sent the measure to the full Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said his chamber will vote on the committee proposal this month.

The Senate bill calls for a total of roughly $2.4 billion a year in cuts, while a House version to be considered Wednesday would save $4 billion out of almost $100 billion annually. Those cuts include more than $600 million in yearly savings from across-the-board cuts that took effect earlier this year.

To view a copy of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, including the amendments that were accepted by the Committee, visit the Senate Agriculture Committee website at

issues/farm-bill. For a summary, see Page 6F.

Important issues that divide the Senate and House versions are farm program payments, disaster assistance for livestock losses, energy incentives, crop insurance and the food stamp program.

According to the Associated Press, Senate and House committee leaders have said they’ll end a program that pays growers of corn, rice and other major crops regardless of market prices, and use some of the savings to insure revenues in less-profitable years.

The House and Senate proposals would each also expand crop insurance and introduce some form of “shallow loss” protection for farmers with revenue reductions not covered by indemnities.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said he plans floor action in a few months, giving both parties time to negotiate a final package before current law expires on Sept. 30.

The House Agriculture Committee is considering a five-year farm bill that would make small cuts to the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program.

The cuts are part of massive legislation that costs almost $100 billion annually and would set policy for farm subsidies, rural programs and the food aid.

The AP reports that the House bill would cut about $2.5 billion a year — or a little more than 3 percent — from the food stamp program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Last year more than 47 million people used the SNAP program, or about 1 in 7 Americans, with the cost more than doubling since 2008.

Much of the savings in the House and Senate bills comes from eliminating $5 billion in annual direct payments, a subsidy frequently criticized because it isn’t tied to production or crop prices, according to the AP. Part of that savings would go toward the deficit reduction, but the rest of the money would create new programs and raise subsidies for some crops while business is booming in the agricultural sector.

The farm bill passed the Senate last year, but the House declined to take it up after conservatives in that chamber objected to the cost and insisted on higher cuts to food stamps. This year, House leaders have said they plan to put the bill on the floor.

As ag producers, we’ll work hard this summer to grow crops and feed livestock. We’ll continue to apply ourselves to growing products to feed those in our country and beyond. We’ll also be monitoring what Congress does to affect our future.