U.S. Senator Pat Roberts today said the Senate Farm Bill was a return to trade and market distorting policies of the past, does not represent reforms achieved in last year's Senate passed bill and does not cut enough wasteful spending. The legislation, S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 was approved by the Senate 66-27. Senator Roberts voted against the bill in the Agriculture Committee on May 14th and today on the Senate floor.
"I want a farm bill to provide certainty for America's producers and consumers, but this is not the best bill possible for farmers and ranchers or the taxpayer. Among my concerns, I am disappointed the Farm Bill includes target prices," Roberts said. "We had an opportunity to build upon the reforms of last year's Senate passed bill. Instead, this bill looks in the rearview mirror for outdated policies that cause the farmer to plant for the government and not the market. We have seen the effects of this interference before with extended periods of depressed prices and excess supplies. In addition, several of these target prices are set so high that they may exceed a producer's full cost of production.
"In this budget environment and at a time when we are looking to make smart cuts to farm programs, I cannot justify a subsidy program that can pay producers more than the cost of production and essentially becomes nothing more than an income transfer program, not a risk management tool.
"This bill does preserve some of the positive work we did last year," Roberts said. "It restores disaster aid to livestock producers, enhances conservation programs, provides an innovative approach for agriculture research and improves crop insurance. I will work to ensure that these provisions remain in the bill through the Conference Committee's consideration and into law."
Senator Roberts attempted to offer amendments to the Farm Bill during floor consideration but was restricted by the rules of debate set by the Majority.
"Last year, I worked with Senate leadership from both parties to consider the Farm Bill through regular order, giving all Senators the chance to improve the bill or make their concerns known," Roberts said. "We considered 73 amendments on the floor. This year we only voted on 15 amendments even though more than 250 were filed. I was one of the few to have a vote on an amendment, but I had two more amendments filed and I cosponsored others that would have improved the bill. Many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle were shut out of the debate entirely."
In an effort to save the taxpayer $31 billion, Senator Roberts offered an amendment, numbered 948, that was similar to a bill he introduced earlier this year, S. 458, The Improve Nutrition Program Integrity and Deficit Reduction Act. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Roberts amendment would save the taxpayer nearly $31 billion over 10 years.
While ensuring those in need continue to receive assistance to feed their families, the Roberts amendment restores integrity to the SNAP program through a series of reforms. The amendment ends millions of dollars in bonuses to certain states for simply administering the program, eliminates billions in redundant education and training programs found elsewhere in the federal government and other adjustments that allow the SNAP program to focus on serving those most in need.
Senator Roberts is senior member and former Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Last year the full Senate passed a bipartisan Farm Bill introduced by then Ranking Member Roberts and Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) that eliminated target prices. He is the first member of Congress in history to serve as both Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and Ranking of the Senate Agriculture Committee.