After a 24-hour delay, the Senate Agriculture Committee began marking up their version of the 2012 Farm Bill – otherwise known as the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 – this morning. The proposed bill is estimated to achieve $24.7 billion in deficit reduction – including approximately $15 billion in commodity program savings. The legislation would eliminate direct and payments, as well as the Average Crop Revenue (ACRE) and Supplemental Revenue Assistance (SURE) programs.
Dairy programs would also see dramatic changes. The Dairy Product Price Support (DPPS), Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) and Dairy Export Incentive (DEIP) programs would be repealed. Instead, a dairy production margin protection program and a supply management program (otherwise known as dairy market stabilization) would be instituted. In addition, the Dairy Forward Pricing Program, Dairy Indemnity Program, Dairy Promotion and Research Program would all be extended – as would the Federal Milk Marketing Order Review Commission.
In her opening statement, Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) noted that committee markup is the first step in a long process and that members continue to work to strike a balance between regions and commodities vis-a-vis the commodity title. Amongst the highlights articulated by Senator Stabenow was that the bill being considered by the committee included; a stronger risk management program, a permanent baseline for livestock disaster assistance programs, reduced the complexity of conservation programs and streamlined rural development programs by rescinding authorization of fifteen programs – programs that have been authorized but never received finding or been fully utilized.
However, the concerns that had initially delayed the committee markup surfaced during opening statements. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) expressed his concern that the commodity title revisions included in the Manager’s amendment late Wednesday night had not yet been scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) stated that “The bill before the committee is neither equitable nor fair” in that crops such as peanuts and rice would be left with no safety net, whereas crops such as corn and soybeans would derive greater benefits from a revenue assistance program. Senator Chambliss believes the bill lacks balance and that the safety net will not be there when farmers really need it, thereby leading him to state that it would be unlikely he would support the bill.
Despite the concerns related to the commodity title, the committee was able to swiftly move through a number of titles – with the objective of moving the bill out of the committee late in the day.
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