New farm bill a priority for 2013


More coverage of the farm bureau trip to D.C.

WASHINGTON, D. C. — It’s still anyone’s guess when the next farm bill will be passed, with House Speaker John Boehner saying very little on the matter during a forum he helped host March 5, for members of Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

“We had a really tough time last year trying to get to the farm bill,” he said. “We are going to do a farm bill and I expect the Senate will do a farm bill as well.”

He offered few specifics on a new bill and when it might be done, noting he didn’t want something to get out that might “make people uncomfortable.”

The last farm bill expired Sept. 30 and a one-year extension was approved in its place, as part of the fiscal cliff package.

It looked as though a farm bill was on track in 2012 — with bipartisan support in the Senate and House Agriculture Committee. But the bill was never taken up by the full house, where Boehner predicted it would fail for lack of votes.

Food stamps

A big concern, he said, is the amount of funding that goes toward the food stamp program. About 80 percent of the “farm bill” actually goes to nutrition programming, leaving a meager 20 percent for farmers.

“The really big fight will be over how big of changes we’re going to make over the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program),” he said.

Several Republicans have also expressed concern with supply management of the dairy industry — a key part of the bills written in 2012.

U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, said he was opposed to the bill in 2012 because it provided target prices for certain commodities, and also because it deviated from market fundamentals, by allowing for supply management in dairy.

He argued for a more market-driven bill, versus one that is built on government regulations.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown spoke to farm bureau members over breakfast March 6. Brown thanked farm bureau members for their participation in his statewide round tables — about 15 in all — which he used to gather and relay information back to the Senate Agriculture Committee in putting the bill together.

He is among a host of Democrats and Republicans, including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who have been outspoken in pushing for a full five-year farm bill.

How much savings?

The Senate approved its version of the bill in June, and the House Ag Committee did the same in July. Both bills were expected to be substantial savings. Over 10 years, the Senate version was expected to save $23 billion and the House version was expected to save $35 billion.

However, new estimates released in early March from the Congressional Budget Office reveal the savings will likely be much less. The savings from the Senate bill are now estimated at just $13 billion, and the House bill, if enacted, would save $27 billion. 

Whenever Congress does pass a farm bill, it could be trimmed even more, due to the ongoing budget battle.

“It’s going to be even more challenging with the cuts that are going to cut more out than what we probably were talking about last year,” Gibbs said.


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