U.S. Senator Tom Udall issued the following statement today after the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, also known as the farm bill, passed the Senate by a vote of 66-27:
"Today I was proud to support passage of the Senate's new farm bill - a very important step for New Mexico, especially during our extreme drought. This bill contains the most significant reforms in decades - saving $24 billion in taxpayer dollars by eliminating wasteful programs like direct payments and other subsidies, and strengthening successful farm and community programs.
"The farm bill also renews livestock disaster assistance programs important to our communities while making them retroactive. This is more important than ever for New Mexico producers enduring years of drought. The bill supports nutrition assistance that seniors and families in our state rely on, while making sure healthier foods are within reach for all Americans, from the farm to the kitchen table.
"I am also pleased that the bill includes specific outreach to our veterans and support for beginning farmers and ranchers, who will form the next generation of agricultural producers.
"The farm bill is vital to our state, and passage is long overdue. I urge the House to put politics aside and follow our lead in passing a strong, bipartisan bill as we have done in the Senate today. Producers, rural communities and consumers have waited long enough for this bill to be finalized, and there's no reason to delay it any further."
The farm bill does the following for New Mexico:
Eliminates direct payments and other commodity crop subsidies and replaces them with the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program that functions like a supplemental insurance program.
Strengthens dairy programs by eliminating outdated programs like MILC that limit assistance to larger dairies and replacing them with the Dairy Production Market Protection Program (DPMPP) and The Dairy Market Stabilization Program (DMSP). This new approach to dairy policy has been negotiated for many years, and fulfills recommendations made to Sen. Udall from the Dairy Producers of New Mexico.
Renews livestock disaster programs and makes them retroactive to cover the last two years of drought.
Continues the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program to help the next generation of farmers get into business.
Adds veterans to the outreach program for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
Renews research funding important to New Mexico's producers and universities.
Authorizes the Healthy Food Financing Initiative to administer loans and grants to improve access to healthy food in "food deserts," or areas that do not have regular access to healthier options, including rural areas.
Renews and increases assistance for food banks, including the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provides emergency food and nutrition assistance to low-income individuals, largely through food banks.
Creates a new title in the bill for Specialty Crops such as New Mexico's green chiles, showing the importance of renewed programs like Specialty Crop Block Grants and Specialty Crop research and other organic and local produce programs.