On Thursday, the House voted on H.R. 6233, the Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act. The bill reauthorizes four agricultural assistance programs for livestock and non-commodity crop producers, and it is paid for with funding cuts to conservation programs used by farmers in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.
Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01), member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, voted against the measure.
"For Hawaii, in particular, conservation efforts are absolutely critical to keeping ag lands productive. By reducing funding for conservation, this bill could have a direct negative impact on our state's longtime efforts to develop more productive and more sustainable agricultural practices. I could not support a measure that is at direct odds with the priorities of our state and helps one group of farmers at the expense of another group of farmers."
"The agriculture industry needs long term solutions not quick fixes," said Hanabusa. "Notable national farm groups -- like the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Corn Growers Association, and the National Farmers Union -- stated that they would prefer a five-year farm bill instead of a stand-alone disaster bill."
The measure's $383 million cost is offset by $639 million in reductions to two conservation programs.
The bill reduces FY 2013 funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) which provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to help plan and implement conservation practices in order to improve soil, water, plant, animal, air, and other related sources on agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland. The program also helps producers meet Federal, State, Tribal and local environmental regulations.
The bill also cuts funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) which helps producers undertake, manage, and improve conservation activities.
Initially, the Senate passed a five-year farm bill with bipartisan support. The House Agriculture Committee passed their own five-year bill, but it didn't have enough support in the House to advance. The GOP leadership then pushed a one-year extension of the bill, but still had to pull it from consideration on Tuesday after they realized that bill also didn't have enough votes to pass.
H.R. 6233 passed by a vote of 223 to 197 and now heads to the Senate.