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Hearing of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee - The 2012 Farm Bill Mark-Up


Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today said the Committee's 2012 Farm Bill would reform Agriculture in America, saving nearly $23 billion and consolidating nearly 100 programs while ensuring critical safety nets are improved to allow farmers and ranchers to continue to meet exploding global demand for food and fiber.

"We've worked hard to put together the best bill possible," said Roberts. "We've performed our duty to taxpayers by cutting deficit spending while at the same time strengthening and preserving the programs so important to agriculture and rural America. And, we've done it in a bipartisan fashion. I look forward to the bill's consideration on the Senate floor to further the debate on our efforts to save taxpayer dollars, continue to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse, and end redundant programs."

The following is the senator's prepared opening statement:

Chairwoman Stabenow, it is a privilege to be here with you today as we mark up the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012.

This legislation represents the final product of numerous hearings and months of discussions as we've worked to write a new Farm Bill during the most difficult budget climate in our nation's history.

I am proud to say that we have put together a bipartisan bill that strengthens and preserves the safety net for our farmers and ranchers and rural America, while providing $23 billion in deficit reduction under this mark as drafted. Let me repeat that: the Senate Agriculture Committee has drafted a bill that voluntarily provides $23 billion in deficit reduction.

We've eliminated:

FOUR commodity programs and rolled them into one, while saving approximately $15 billion from farm safety-net programs.
TWENTY THREE Conservation programs are streamlined into thirteen while saving nearly $6.4 billion.
$4 billion is saved in the nutrition title.
FIFTEEN program authorizations are eliminated in the Rural Development title, eliminating over $1 billion of authorized spending over 10 years.
Two programs are combined and another two eliminated in specialty crops.
Over $1.2 billion in mandatory money is transferred to discretionary authorizations in the Energy title.
FIVE programs are eliminated in the Forestry title, reducing authorizations by at least $20 million.
And, over SIXTY authorizations are eliminated from the Research title, reducing authorizations by at least $770 million over 5 years.

Madame Chairwoman, that is $23 billion in mandatory savings -- at least $1.8 billion in reduced discretionary authorizations, and at least NINETY Six programs or authorizations eliminated.

This is a reform bill. No other committee, in the House or Senate, has voluntarily undertaken programmatic and funding reforms at this level in this budget climate.

Madame Chairwoman, this is not only a reform bill. It is also one that strengthens and preserves our farm risk management, conservation, research and rural community programs.

We have strengthened and preserved the crop insurance program -- the number one priority of virtually every producer that testified before our Committee. We've streamlined our commodity programs while reducing complexity for the producer. We've updated the acreage upon which support is based to reflect more recent cropping patterns.

Madame Chairwoman, that's a point I want to discuss a little more. In recent days, it has seemed there has been a little confusion here in the Capitol region. It seems that some think we should write farm safety-net programs and allocate their funding by commodity group or organization.

If all you did was listen to these groups, you'd think we were robbing Peter to pay Paul. I understand that the elimination of direct payments is a big deal to many commodities.

I originally authored the program. One of the biggest beneficiaries of the program has been wheat -- especially in Kansas. But the taxpayers have been clear in this budget climate. Why should Congress defend a program based on planting acreages established over 25 years ago.

Yes. The elimination of direct payments means the end of many wheat payments in Kansas. But, that does not mean Kansas producers will no longer have a farm safety-net. Quite the contrary, they'll have a strong risk management system, it'll just be for different crops.

Why? Because when base acres were established over 25 years ago, Kansas planted 2.8 million acres of corn, 4.2 million acres of sorghum, 1.6 million acres of soybeans, and 12.1 million acres of wheat.

In the most recent three year period Kansas farmers planted 4.6 million acres of corn, 2.6 million acres of sorghum, 4 million acres of soybeans, and 8.8 million acres of wheat. That is 4.9 million fewer acres of wheat and sorghum and 4.2 million more acres of corn and soybeans. Madame Chairwoman, those acreage shifts have occurred because farmers made those decisions -- not Washington. Our producers have planted for the domestic and international markets.

Money is shifting among commodities because farmers are farming differently -- throughout the states on this Committee. It is not shifting because we are intentionally picking winners and losers.

I am very proud of this legislation. We've worked hard to put together not the best possible bill but the best bill possible.

We've performed our duty to taxpayers by cutting deficit spending while at the same time strengthening and preserving the programs so important to agriculture and rural America.

And, we've done it in a bipartisan fashion. Madame Chairwoman, thank you for bringing us to this point today and let's pass this Farm Bill."

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