The U.S. Senate cleared a procedural hurdle today and voted to proceed to consideration of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (the Farm Bill), with strong bipartisan support on a vote of 90-8. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Senator Pat Roberts, the Committee's Ranking Member, co-authored the bipartisan reform bill that ends unnecessary subsidies, saves taxpayers $23 billion, and helps America's agriculture economy continue to grow. Stabenow and Roberts will together manage consideration of the 2012 Farm Bill on the Senate floor.
"This bill represents commonsense and responsible reforms that will save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars while strengthening key initiatives that will allow our economy to continue growing and creating jobs," Chairwoman Stabenow said. "This bill has garnered widespread praise from hundreds of farm, food and conservation organizations for its common sense reforms, deficit reduction, and investments in our economic future. The 2008 Farm Bill is set to expire at the end of September -- we must pass this commonsense bill immediately to give farmers the certainty they need to continue growing the economy. Sixteen million American jobs rely on agriculture. The time for reform is now."
"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," Ranking Member Roberts said. "We've cut mandatory spending by $23.6 billion. We've reformed, eliminated and streamlined USDA programs to the tune of more than 100 programs and authorizations eliminated. We've done it on a voluntary basis and in a bipartisan fashion. Simply put, this bill is commonsense reform and needs to be approved now to provide certainty for our farmers and ranchers to make planning decisions and to help our economic recovery."
The Senate's bipartisan bill represents significant reform of American agriculture policy. By ending four different commodity subsidy programs (direct payments, counter-cyclical payments, the SURE program and the ACRE program), the bill achieves billions in savings while strengthening responsible, market-based risk management tools that prevent farmers -- and farm jobs -- from being wiped out because of weather disaster or market volatility.
Through streamlining programs, the bill consolidates 23 conservation programs into 13 easier-to-use initiatives -- a commonsense approach that is being supported by nearly 650 environmental groups in all 50 states, which will mean less erosion, cleaner water and healthier wildlife habitats. Additionally, the bill increases efficiency and accountability while strengthening agricultural jobs initiatives by expanding export opportunities, investing in research, growing bio-based manufacturing, spurring innovation in bio-energy production, helping family farmers sell locally, strengthening our commitment to fruit and vegetable and organic farmers, and extending rural development initiatives.
For more information, and a summary of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, please visit the Senate Agriculture Committee's website at http://www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill.