Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Senator Debbie Stabenow recently introduced the 2012 Farm Bill for consideration on the Senate floor. Senator Stabenow was joined by top Agriculture Committee Republican Senator Pat Roberts in introducing the bipartisan bill, entitled the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act. The Senate Agriculture Committee approved the bill with a vote of 16-5. The full Senate is expected to begin considering the bill in the coming weeks.
The Senators' bipartisan proposal will reduce the deficit $23 billion dollars by eliminating unnecessary direct payment subsidies, consolidating programs to end duplication, and cracking down on food assistance abuse. These reforms will allow agriculture initiatives critical for Michigan to be strengthened.
"We examined every agriculture program to see what was working and what wasn't," said Senator Stabenow. "This Farm Bill ends unnecessary direct payment subsidies, consolidates programs and cracks down on fraud and abuse. With these reforms we saved billions that allowed us to strengthen initiatives that are effectively helping farmers and businesses create new Michigan agriculture jobs."
Senator Stabenow continued, "Congress needs to put down the partisanship and work across the aisle to help spur job creation and reduce the deficit. I'm proud that the Agriculture Committee was able to accomplish that, and now look forward to broadening our bipartisan coalition to get this done."
Agriculture is Michigan's second largest industry, with nearly one in four jobs supported by agriculture.
The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 would reduce the deficit by:
Finally ending "direct payment" farm subsidies, meaning farmers will no longer be paid for crops they are not growing; will not be paid for acres that are not actually planted; and will only receive support in the face of actual price or yield drops-not when they are already doing well. Crop insurance will be strengthened to ensure farmers are protected from being wiped out by a few days of bad weather.
Cracking down on fraud and abuse in food assistance programs so that resources are used for those who truly need them. For example, the proposal would take lotto winners off of food assistance, stop misuse by college students, and crack down on benefit trafficking.
Making agriculture initiatives more cost-effective-eliminating dozens of programs in the agriculture committees' jurisdiction while still largely accomplishing the same goals and making programs easier to use. For example, 23 existing conservation programs are consolidated into 13 while still maintaining the same tools currently available to protect our land and water-even increasing investment in top priorities like Great Lakes Protection.
The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 would help farmers, ranchers and small business owners create jobs by:
Expanding export opportunities to help farmers sell in new markets
Strengthening research and other initiatives to support innovation among American fruit and vegetable growers, which is particularly important to Michigan as the state's agriculture sector is based on fruits and vegetables much more than many other states
Helping new bio-manufacturing businesses start and existing ones expand
Spurring advancements in bio-energy production
Creating new markets for small family farmers
Extending rural development initiatives to help rural communities grow their economies
More detailed summaries and the full text of the 2012 Farm Bill is available on the Senate Agriculture Committee's website: http://www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill.