House Farm Bill Process Begins to Move
There's some good news about the Farm Bill for West Texas producers. The House Agriculture Committee is working on draft legislation, and we'll be amending it and voting on it on May 15. According to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, we can expect that it will be taken up by the full House of Representatives sometime before August. The current Farm Bill expired last fall, but Congress extended it until September of 2013. It's important that we get a new bill in place before we hit that deadline.
What can you expect from this Farm Bill? I think it will look similar to the legislation we passed out of the House Agriculture Committee last year. You can visit the House Agriculture Committee's website for a full summary of that bill. Congressman Frank Lucas, the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has told us that his draft legislation will cut $38 billion in spending over 10 years. That's $3 billion more in savings than we achieved last year. Just a little over half of those savings--$20 billion--will come from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, makes up 80% of Farm Bill spending. The other $18 billion in proposed savings will come from farm programs. Of course, last year, the Senate passed its own version of the Farm Bill and will likely do so again this year. The differences will ultimately have to be worked out in a joint House-Senate Conference Committee.
I think a strong crop insurance program is the best way of ensuring a strong safety net for our producers. With crop insurance, farmers and ranchers pay a premium each year to insure their harvest. In bad years, they get a pay out that helps them stay above water when they don't have much revenue coming in. It's a shared-risk program, and it's the preferred risk management tool for farmers and ranchers across the country. I've introduced a bill to strengthen crop insurance by allowing farmers the option to protect against shallow losses. I believe it will be included in this year's Farm Bill. I also hope that my reforms to SNAP will be included. These proposals will reduce waste and loopholes so that SNAP can better serve families truly in need of nutrition assistance. I'll keep you posted on the Farm Bill's status as it moves through the process. If you'd like to watch the votes live, there will be a link on this page.
Flexibility for Working Families
This week, the House of Representatives will be voting on a bill that I co-sponsored: The Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013. This is simple, common-sense legislation that makes it easier for workers to balance their work and family responsibilities. Right now, private-sector employees that work overtime must be paid in wages--they can't choose paid time off as compensation. But state and local government workers have long had that option. Comp time lets you turn overtime work into paid time off, which gives you the flexibility to take your parent to the doctor, attend your child's parent teacher conference, or just sleep in after a long week in the office. The bill keeps strong employee protections in place, too: employees who want to receive cash wages would continue to do so. And no employee can be forced to take comp time instead of receiving overtime pay. Karen DeLoach, a bookkeeper from Montgomery, AL made a video explaining how this bill would help her and how it can help you too. It's worth watching. I'm hoping we get this bill passed this week, and can soon make it law.
This week, take some time to thank some of our everyday heroes. This week we celebrate both National Nurses Week and Teacher Appreciation Week. It's a good time to reflect on the men and women who have cared for you and taught you through the years, and to reach out to them and let them know you appreciate all they've done.