Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow today announced that the Senate voted 90-8 to move forward on the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (a.k.a. "the Farm Bill"). The Farm Bill required at least 60 votes to be brought to the floor for consideration, overwhelmingly clearing the legislation's first major hurdle in the Senate.
Stabenow's Farm Bill 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.
"When we grow things here and make things here, we create jobs here in Michigan," said Stabenow. "Agriculture supports nearly one in four Michigan jobs and 16 million jobs nationwide. This Farm Bill is a jobs bill and it's time for Congress to get it done."
Stabenow continued, "This Farm Bill represents the greatest reform in agriculture in decades. The 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 jobs."
Stabenow was joined by top Agriculture Committee Republican Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) in introducing the bipartisan Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act. The Senate Agriculture Committee approved the bill on April 26 with a strong bipartisan vote of 16-5.
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 not be paid when they are already doing well. Instead farmers will only receive support in the face of actual price or yield drops. 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 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 over 100 programs and authorizations 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-particularly important to Michigan as our agriculture sector is based more on fruits and vegetables much more than many other states.
§ Helping family farmers sell locally, increasing support for farmers' markets and spurring the creation of food hubs to connect farmers to schools and other community-based organizations.
§ Providing training and access to capital to help beginning farmers to get off the ground.
§ Creating initiatives to assist American veterans in starting agriculture businesses.
§ Helping new bio-manufacturing businesses (which use agricultural products to replace petroleum-based plastics in manufactured goods) start, and existing ones expand
§ Spurring advancements in bio-energy production
§ 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.