U.S. Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR),
Paul Ryan (R-WI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Christopher Shays (RCT), and Jim Moran (D-VA) today unveiled the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment, which they intend to bring to the floor when the 2007 Farm Bill reauthorization is considered on the House floor later this week.
"This coalition succeeded in elevating the debate about the future of farm policy in America and pushed the Agriculture Committee to make some changes to our commodity programs," Rep. Kind said. "Unfortunately, the
changes they made include loopholes large enough to drive a combine through. They failed to address the real problems with our current farm programs: they direct billions in taxpayer dollars to a few but very wealthy
producers in a handful of congressional districts at the expense of programs that truly help family farms; they distort the market; and they make us susceptible to WTO challenges. The Fairness Amendment would change that -making farm spending more equitable and fiscally responsible, and reinvesting the savings in rural America through conservation, nutrition, and rural development."
Last week, the House Agriculture Committee passed a Farm Bill that makes very minimal changes to commodity programs, making the U.S. even more susceptible to WTO challenges. The bill included an income "limit" of $1
million, which preserves loopholes that will still allow the wealthiest farmers to collect subsidies, and expanded direct payment entitlements at a time when commodity prices are at near-record highs.
"Market conditions and the current political environment have created a unique opportunity for Congress to make serious, meaningful reforms to our farm policy," Rep. Flake said. "If we squander this opportunity now, we may be stuck with this antiquated policy for many more years."
A unique coalition in the House converged in favor of reform including members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. Earlier this year, the bipartisan group of lawmakers brought the reform debate to the forefront with a legislative package that made significant changes to agriculture policy, FARM 21. In response to feedback on FARM 21 from members, constituents, and others, Reps. Kind and Flake developed the Fairness Amendment,
which retains important aspects of the farm safety net that producers have come to know, but will reform them to work better and more equitably. Many of the proposals mirror the ideas advocated by the United States Department of Agriculture and others.
"Because the Farm Bill directly affects the economy, the environment, farmers across the country and everyone who eats every day, it is past time for serious reform," said Rep. Blumenauer. "I have been working to change the
Farm Bill since the last reauthorization in 2002 because every American community, whether urban or rural, has a stake in it. The Farm Bill proposed by the Agriculture Committee sadly contains reforms more in name than in
substance. The amendment we're proposing today would not only implement reforms to commodity programs but provide resources for local producers and nutrition programs. Make no mistake: the status quo bill proposed by the
Agriculture Committee is not only a lost opportunity for reform, but it is a direct threat to the majority of America's farmers and ranchers."
The Fairness Amendment will save about $12 billion over five years by making commonsense reforms to commodity programs that will make them more equitable and geared toward family farms instead of a few very large and wealthy entities producing five crops.
"The government's farm assistance program should be a safety net for family farmers in times of need - not corporate welfare with million-dollar payoffs," Rep. Paul Ryan said. "With this amendment, we address the abuses and distortions of the current system and set up a better alternative to help struggling family farms during tough times."