Today, Senator Richard Lugar and Congressman Marlin Stutzman officially unveiled the REFRESH Act, a proposal to reform farm policy and save taxpayers $40 billion. Speaking at the FFA National Convention in Indianapolis, both legislators stressed the need to ensure a vibrant future for agriculture through needed budget cuts and viable safety nets.
"The changes we propose will help grow the agribusiness sector and create more jobs," said Lugar. "The United States has significant competitive advantages in agriculture. At the same time we can contribute to cutting our national debt. The REFRESH Act saves $40 billion over 10 years according to the Congressional Budget Office. It moves farm and food policy from Depression-era programs that restrict farm productivity. Today, rather than stifling agriculture production, we are faced with the challenge of feeding an ever-growing global population."
"As farmers ourselves, we want to keep the horizon bright for the next generation of American farmers. Farming is a business and, like every other business in America, it isn't immune from the dangers presented by our nation's astounding debt. That's why our bill cuts $40 billion. At the same time, we know that we have to adapt to succeed. So, we've offered changes that move farm policy into the 21st century. Tomorrow's farmers shouldn't be restricted by an outdated direct payment system that limits options. They should be free to choose insurance tools that offer safety nets to meet their needs," said Stutzman.
Following their remarks, Lugar and Stutzman took questions from FFA students who participated in the 84th National Convention.
The Lugar-Stutzman bill would end current farm programs including direct payments to farmers, counter-cyclical payments, the ACRE program and marketing assistance/loan deficiency payments.
The REFRESH bill would establish an aggregate risk and revenue management (ARRM) program that allows producers to protect between 90 percent and 75 percent of their expected crop revenue. All farmers would be able to purchase supplemental revenue insurance that is underwritten by the USDA Risk Management Agency.
Lugar and Stutzman propose repeal of the mandatory federal sugar program, allowing for market pricing of sugar.
Their bill replaces dairy price support (DPPSP) and milk income loss contract (MILC) programs with a voluntary margin protection program that covers 80 percent of the producers' production history when margins fall below $4 per hundred-weight.
Last week, the Hoosier lawmakers sent their farm bill proposal to the 12 members of the Congressional Deficit Reduction "Super' Committee, which is slated to report their recommendations by Thanksgiving.
Senator Lugar, a member and former chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, manages his family's 604-acre Marion County corn, soybean and tree farm. As Chairman of the Agriculture Committee, Senator Lugar built bipartisan support for 1996 federal farm program reforms, ending 1930s era federal production controls. He has promoted broader risk management options for farmers, research advancements, increased export opportunities and higher net farm income. He also led initiatives to streamline the U.S. Department of Agriculture and reform the food stamp program.
Congressman Stutzman, a freshman member of the House Committees on Budget and Agriculture, has advocated agriculture policy reform long before serving in the House of Representatives. A fourth-generation farmer from Howe, Indiana, Stutzman is co-owner of Stutzman Farms. Together, with his father, two brothers, and brother-in-law, the Stutzmans farm 4,000 acres in northern Indiana, growing soybeans, green beans, and seed corn.