Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) released the following statement after joining a bipartisan majority of her colleagues on the House Agriculture Committee in advancing the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act, also known as the Farm Bill.
"Last night's vote was an important step forward for farmers, consumers, and rural communities in New Hampshire and across our country. For too long, Congress has kicked the can down the road and failed to provide long-term authorization for vital agricultural, nutrition, and conservation programs. Our government's failure to pass a Farm Bill last year added uncertainty to our economy, inhibiting investments in job creation, research, and rural infrastructure. Republicans and Democrats owe it to the American people to break the gridlock and find common ground, which is why I supported this bill--despite its deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
"I am gravely disappointed that this legislation undermines assistance for hungry families, and I fought hard to protect this essential program. At the same time, this Farm Bill contains many important reforms: it eliminates wasteful direct payment subsidies, streamlines more than 100 duplicative programs, and includes both an amendment I sponsored to support rural colleges and an amendment I cosponsored to expand access to local, healthy food.
"As the first New Hampshire Representative to serve on the Agriculture Committee in over seventy years, I am proud to have advocated for Granite State priorities before the committee, including support for organic farmers, fresh fruit and vegetable production, healthy forests, and wildlife conservation. I am also grateful that my colleagues joined me in passing amendments to promote organic research, help specialty crop growers manage risk, and save millions of dollars by eliminating a duplicative catfish inspection program."
In the meeting of the Agriculture Committee, Kuster sponsored:
An amendment to create a coordinated strategy for assistance to community colleges and technical colleges in rural areas, which passed with unanimous support;
An amendment to provide states with increased flexibility to support wildlife conservation projects through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which helps implement conservation practices; and
An amendment to level the playing field for organic farmers by lifting arbitrary limits on payments to organic farmers participating in EQIP.
This week, both the House and Senate Committees on Agriculture passed bipartisan versions of the Farm Bill. If both chambers do not reach an agreement on this legislation, current authorization for Farm Bill programs will expire on October 1, 2013.