Senate Approves 2014 Farm Bill, Legislation Heads to the President

Congress Achieves Rare Bipartisan Agreement on Major Jobs Bill; Legislation Makes Landmark Reforms in Agriculture Policy, Saves $23 Billion

The U.S. Senate today voted overwhelmingly to approve the bipartisan Farm Bill coauthored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, by a vote of 68-32. The bill represents rare bipartisan agreement on legislation that would boost a major sector of the U.S. economy and create jobs across the country. The 2014 Farm Bill, which reduces the deficit by $23 billion and represents the most significant reform of American agriculture policy in decades, was approved by the House last week and will now head to the president for his signature.

                                                                               

“Many people said this would never happen in this environment, but Congress has come together to pass a major bipartisan jobs bill.  Congress has also passed a major reform and deficit reduction bill.  Both bills are the 2014 Farm Bill,” Chairwoman Stabenow said. “This effort proves that by working across party lines, we can save taxpayer money and create smart policies that lay the foundation for a stronger economy.

                       

“This is not your father’s Farm Bill. It’s a new direction for American agriculture policy.  Major reforms will be implemented and direct payments will finally come to an end.  The bill supports the transition Americans are already making to a healthier, more locally based food system. This is also one of the largest investments in land and water conservation we’ve made in many years.

“And we were able to protect food assistance for families in need of support, while finding savings solely by focusing on fraud and misuse.

“This bill truly touches every American – from the food we eat, to the air we breathe and the water we drink.

 

“It’s been a long road with many challenges.  I’m very proud that we maintained steadfast bipartisanship throughout this process.  In the end, Congress came together to support 16 million American jobs, save taxpayers billions and implement the most significant reforms to agriculture programs in decades.”

 

The Farm Bill, formally entitled the Agricultural Act of 2014, reforms food and agricultural policy by eliminating direct payments and other subsidy programs that pay farmers every year whether they need it or not. The bill instead provides responsible risk management tools for farmers that support farmers only when there is need, such as a weather disaster.  This transformation provides the bulk of the Farm Bill’s deficit reduction. The Farm Bill also streamlines and consolidates programs to end duplication and make programs more efficient. These reforms allow for the strengthening of key initiatives that help farmers and small businesses reach new markets and create American jobs. The bill makes historic investments in conservation, bioenergy production, research, local and healthy food initiatives, organics and maintains critical food assistance for families in need.  A broad coalition of stakeholders has endorsed the bill (click here to see a list), including farm organizations, conservation and environmental groups, sportsmen, forestry groups, seniors coalitions, church organizations, international food aid advocates, nutrition and hunger leaders, clean energy organizations, rural development leaders and veterans advocates, among others.

 

 

Overview of the Agricultural Act of 2014

 

Enacting the Agricultural Act of 2014 will reform agriculture programs, reduce the deficit, and help farmers, ranchers and business owners grow the economy. The legislation:

 

  • Repeals the direct payment program and strengthens risk management tools
  • Repeals outdated programs and consolidates duplicative ones, eliminating nearly 100 programs or authorizations
  • Helps farmers and ranchers create jobs and provides certainty for the 16 million Americans working in agriculture
  • Strengthens conservation efforts to protect land, water and wildlife for future generations
  • Maintains food assistance for families while addressing fraud and misuse in SNAP
  • Reduces the deficit by $23 billion

 

Ends Direct Payments, Strengthens Risk Management

The Agricultural Act of 2014 reforms farm programs and saves taxpayer dollars by ending direct payments and other farm programs. The bill provides risk management tools that help American farmers and ranchers survive weather disasters and market volatility. The bipartisan agreement cuts farm program spending by $23.3 billion.

 

The bill also strengthens crop insurance, which is an essential cost-effective risk management tool. With crop insurance, farmers invest in their own risk management by purchasing insurance policies so they are protected in difficult times. Crop insurance also helps protect Americans from spikes in food prices. Without crop insurance farmers would have no way to recover from disaster unless the government steps in and provides unplanned disaster assistance. The effectiveness of crop insurance was underscored during the historic droughts of 2012, which impacted more than 80% of the country. Crop insurance protected farmers without the need for an emergency disaster relief bill.

 

Additionally, the bill provides a permanent livestock disaster assistance program for producers affected by natural disasters, and also covers producers who were affected by recent droughts, winter storms that hit the Northern Plains last year, and spring freezes that affected fruit growers in the Midwest.

 

Streamlines Programs, Strengthens Conservation

The Agricultural Act of 2014 consolidates 23 existing conservation programs into 13 programs while strengthening tools to protect and conserve land, water and wildlife. By streamlining programs, the farm bill provides added flexibility and ensures conservation programs are working for producers in the most effective and efficient way – an approach supported by nearly 650 conservation organizations from all 50 states. These reforms increase resources for top priorities while reducing the deficit by $6 billion.

 

Protects SNAP for Families, Reduces Fraud and Misuse

The bipartisan farm bill conference agreement maintains critical assistance for families while stopping fraud and misuse to achieve savings in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The farm bill agreement closes a loophole being used by some states to artificially inflate benefits for a small number of recipients. Additionally, the bipartisan agreement stops lottery winners from continuing to receive assistance, increases program efficiency, cracks down on trafficking, fraud and misuse, and invests in new pilot programs to help people secure employment through job training and other services. CBO estimates this section of the bill will save $8 billion. Savings in this section are reached without removing anyone from the SNAP program, and will ensure that every person receives the benefits they are intended to get under the current rules of the program.

 

Grows the Agricultural Economy

The Agricultural Act of 2014 reduces the deficit while strengthening top priorities that help to grow the agricultural economy. The bill:

 

  • Boosts export opportunities to help farmers find new global markets for their goods
  • Continues investments to meet growing consumer demand for fresh fruits and vegetables, local foods and organics by helping family farmers sell locally, increasing support for farmers’ markets, and connecting farmers to schools and other community-based organizations
  • Supports beginning farmers and ranchers with training and access to capital
  • Invests in state-run pilot projects to encourage and incentivize employment and training opportunities for families in need
  • Creates initiatives to help veterans start agriculture businesses
  • Grows American bio-based manufacturing (manufacturing processes using raw agricultural products grown in America)
  • Expands bio-energy production, supporting non-food based advanced biomass energy production such as cellulosic ethanol and woody biomass power
  • Invests in research to promote productivity and new agricultural innovations
  • Strengthens rural development initiatives to help rural communities upgrade infrastructure and create a better environment for small businesses
  • Increases assistance for food banks
  • Reduces regulatory barriers

 

The Farm Bill makes investments in key priorities that help protect famers from disaster and help create agriculture jobs – including strengthened risk management programs like crop insurance, bio-energy production, bolstering research, expanding fruit and vegetable programs.  These investments total $14.2 billion.

 

With all spending cuts and investments, the 2014 Farm Bill reduces the deficit by a net total of $23 billion.

 

For more information, and a summary of the Agricultural Act of 2014, please visit the Senate Agriculture Committee’s website at http://www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill.