Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) today made the following statement regarding the Senate passage of the Agriculture Reform, Jobs and Food Act (S. 954):
"The Senate missed an important opportunity today to improve federal agriculture policy by passing a Farm Bill with a problematic commodity title and which fails to rein in redundancy and waste in food assistance programs," said Thune. "Instead, this year's Senate Farm Bill reauthorizes an outdated counter-cyclical program with even higher fixed target prices for certain crops, and offers only a minimal attempt at making meaningful reforms to the food stamp program. Many of us were eager to offer amendments to the bill in an attempt to fix some of these problems coming out of committee. However, despite more than 200 amendments being filed, including two I offered that would have saved taxpayers more than $5 billion, only 14 Farm Bill amendments were considered and voted on prior to final passage. For these reasons, I was unable to support the final bill."
Thune offered and cosponsored several reform-minded Commodity and Food and Nutrition Title amendments to the Farm Bill during the Senate Agriculture Committee's markup of the bill. Two of these amendments were accepted into the Chairman's Mark and approved by voice vote. An amendment cosponsored by Thune that eliminated outdated fixed target prices for certain commodity crops and could save $276 million was accepted into the bill. Thune's amendment to require that native sod and longstanding grassland acres converted to cropland be tracked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture was incorporated into his sodsaver provision, which was also a part of the bill. The bill also includes Thune's Forestry Title improvements that will assist fighting pine beetles in the Black Hills.
Thune is pleased that key conservation and crop insurance provisions, which he supported in previous Senate-passed Farm Bill remained strong, and as a Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee will continue fighting for a reform-minded Farm Bill with effective safety net provisions that provide assistance only when needed.
The bill's Commodity Title included reforms from Thune's Aggregate Revenue and Risk Management legislation, which eliminated direct payments to farmers and other outdated programs. However, the bill voted on today included a costly fixed target price and counter-cyclical program for peanuts and rice which Thune does not support.