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Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed--Resumed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ROBERTS. Mr. President, I intend to give my full opening comments in regard to the farm bill tomorrow, but I wish to quickly say thank you to the chairwoman for helping to bring us to this point. I thank her for her leadership. It has truly been a bipartisan effort. It has been a team effort.

I wish to reiterate what the chairwoman has said. I wish to tell our colleagues this is a true reform bill. I could say that 10 times over for emphasis, but it is a true reform bill. It also reduces and streamlines the Department of Agriculture programs--long overdue. We cut $23 billion in mandatory spending, and it was voluntarily, without any direction from the Budget Committee or anybody else, and it is real money. It is mandatory money.

The Super Committee tried to work out a deal, and they weren't so super. They tried hard. I am not trying to criticize a tough deal. We are the only authorizing committee that I know of in the Senate that has voluntarily come forth and said: Here is real deficit reduction in mandatory spending--over $23 billion. It is rather remarkable that people who tend to be critical of agriculture would all of a sudden discover it is the Agriculture Committee, in a bipartisan effort, that has cut real money, real mandatory money.

How many times have we heard folks back home say: Why don't you work together? Why can't we all get along? Why can't you reach across the aisle and accomplish something? We did that in our committee, with strong bipartisan support, and we achieved this true spending reduction. We eliminated four of the commodity programs.

I just had a colleague come in to visit with me this morning. He said: I looked at this farm bill and I couldn't figure it out. It is so complex I don't know how anybody can figure it out. That is pretty true in farm country too--trying to figure out all of the complexities, and when they go down to the farm service agency, trying to figure out what is in each program and which one they should pick. We eliminated four commodity programs and made it much simpler. We strengthened and improved crop insurance, which is the No. 1 issue we heard about in every hearing we had. We eliminated $6 billion in conservation spending while streamlining 23 programs into 13 to eliminate duplication. When have we heard: When are you going to start to streamline and reduce duplication? We have done that. We cut $4 billion in nutrition programs--a painful cut for some, I understand that. But it is not going to affect anybody's payments so much as it is the $4 billion--that is 82 percent, by the way, of the agriculture budget is in nutrition.

We have eliminated a grand total of more than 100 programs. Get this: We have eliminated a grand total of more than 100 programs--I don't know of any other committee that has done that--and authorizations totaling nearly $2 billion in reduced authorizations alone. So we dealt with not only mandatory spending but also $2 billion in authorizations.

This is, as I have said, a reform bill. We need to get this thing passed. We need to get the farm bill passed. The current law expires on September 30 of this year. Failure to pass the bill means we revert to permanent 1949 law that would provide absolute chaos in the countryside. If we don't pass this bill by September 30, then we are back here voting on an extension. Who wants to extend the current farm bill? It is yesterday's farm bill. This is tomorrow's farm bill. We can't go back to 1949, and I do not think we need to be in any business of trying to extend the current act when we have a true reform bill and one that is fiscally sound.

The big thing is we need to provide set guidance to our producers and their lenders--our farmers, ranchers, bankers, all up and down Main Street who depend on agriculture, including every rural community and, for that matter, anybody who eats, every consumer. We are talking about the hometown banker and the farm credit agencies so they can know exactly what this farm bill looks like when, as early as this August, they will begin to discuss their operating loans for the coming year.

I know we are debating the motion to proceed at this time, but the chairwoman and I and our staffs are available. We are available. If someone has heartburn, we are available. We have the Rolaids; don't worry about it. Our staffs are available. Come to us if a colleague wants to discuss a possible amendment. Come to us and talk to us. We are working together in a bipartisan effort. I urge Members who intend to offer amendments to please come to us and allow us to begin working with them now. We stand ready and willing and, with the help of Members, able.


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