Today Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) called for prompt consideration of the farm bill and more progress on reforms. The Senate Agriculture Committee mark-up of the farm bill, which had been scheduled for today, was postponed late last night.
"As a former Chairman of the Agriculture Committee, I recognize the challenge of writing a farm bill, but as a farmer, I know that the agriculture community needs policy certainty," Lugar said. "Now is the time to press forward with fiscally-responsible reforms for farm and nutrition policy. Hoosier farmers need a good farm bill, not political impasses," Lugar said.
Lugar has proposed 11 amendments that were set for consideration during the mark-up. These included amendments to repeal the sugar program, close loopholes in the food stamp program, help Hoosiers save money on their electric bills, and enable private investment in rural energy.
Lugar is the Senate author of an alternative farm bill known as the Rural Economic Farm and Ranch Sustainability and Hunger (REFRESH) Act. REFRESH would save taxpayers $40 billion -- well more than the $26 billion in savings in the draft bill offered by the Agriculture Committee.
In addition to his amendments, several provisions that Lugar had advocated in the REFRESH Act were already included in the draft farm bill released on Friday by the Agriculture Committee. These included provisions strengthening the federal crop insurance program; eliminating direct payments and counter-cyclical payments; creating a shallow-loss revenue option for producers that assists only in times of need, not every year; removing restrictions that limited farmers' planting decisions; reducing the land-idling Conservation Reserve Program so that productive acres are used to produce; and consolidating several conservation programs.
Lugar underscored the need for bold reforms, "I am pleased that the Committee incorporated some of my REFRESH Act reform provisions, but the Committee should do more. I will work with this Committee during our mark-up, on the Senate floor, and with my partner Congressman Marlin Stutzman in the House Agriculture Committee to realize additional taxpayer savings."