Farm Bill Highlights
Created by rrummel on 1/30/2014 3:02:59 PM

Lucas Provides Highlights


With a vote of 251 to 166 - the U.S. House approved the Agricultural Act of 2014 Wednesday. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas was obviously pleased with the bill’s passage. He says it is legislation that all involved can be proud of because it fulfills the expectations of the American people for Congress to work together to find ways to reduce the cost of the federal government. Lucas says the Agricultural Act contributes major savings to deficit reduction, significant reforms to policy and still provides a safety net for the production of American food and fiber and to ensure Americans have enough food to eat. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill yet this week - where Lucas says he’s hopeful the measure will enjoy the same success. As long as there is no objection - Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow said the Senate would likely take up the farm bill today (Thursday) She is confident the Senate will pass the farm bill. She noted the Senate has already passed the farm bill twice with overwhelming bipartisan support. With the House vote - Stabenow said Congress is on the verge of achieving major reform - and enacting a five-year farm bill that helps farmers and businesses create jobs across the country and saves taxpayers billions.

Here are some of the details of the farm bill highlighted in a release from the office of Chairman Lucas:

Farm Policy Reforms

The Agricultural Act of 2014 includes the most significant reduction to farm policy spending in history by improving agricultural programs.

* Repeals Direct Payments and limits producers to risk management tools that offer protection when they suffer significant losses. 

* Limits on payments are reduced, eligibility rules are tightened, and means tests are streamlined to make farm programs more accountable.

* Strengthens crop insurance, a successful public/private partnership that ensures farmers invest in their own risk management.

* Provides historic reforms to dairy policy by repealing outdated and ineffective dairy programs. Offers producers a new, voluntary, margin protection program without imposing government-mandated supply controls.

* Supports small businesses and beginning farmers and ranchers with training and access to capital.

Food Stamp Reforms

The Agricultural Act of 2014 makes the first reforms to the food stamp program since the welfare reforms of 1996 while maintaining critical food assistance to families in need.

* Closes the “heat-and-eat” loophole that artificially increases benefit levels when states provide nominal LIHEAP assistance.

* Establishes a 10-state pilot to empower states to engage able-bodied adults in mandatory work programs.

* Prohibits USDA from engaging in SNAP recruitment activities, and advertising SNAP on TV, radio, billboards and through foreign governments.

* Ensures illegal immigrants, lottery winners, traditional college students, and the deceased do not receive benefits.

* Ensures SNAP recipients are not receiving benefits in multiple states.

* Prevents abuses such as water dumping to exchange bottles for cash.

* Demands outcomes from existing employment and training programs.

* Prohibits states from manipulating SNAP benefit levels by eliminating medical marijuana as an allowable medical expense.

* Allows states to pursue retailer fraud through a pilot investigation program and crack down on trafficking through data mining, terminal ID, and other measures.

* Increases assistance for food banks.

Additional Reforms & Regulatory Relief

The Agricultural Act of 2014 includes multiple regulatory relief provisions benefitting agricultural and forestry industries.  

* Consolidates 23 duplicative and overlapping conservation programs into 13.

* Provides one year of full funding for the Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which provides funding for vital services in communities containing federal lands.

* Provides certainty to the forest products industry by clarifying that forest roads and related silvicultural activities should not be treated as a point source under the Clean Water Act.  

* Creates a permanent subcommittee within the EPA Science Advisory Board to conduct peer review of EPA actions that would negatively impact agriculture.

* Enhances coordination between USDA, EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) regarding the conflict between laws governing pesticide use and the Endangered Species Act.

* Enhances coordination between USDA and the U.S. FWS regarding actions taken to manage the lesser prairie chicken.

* Eliminates duplicative reporting requirements for seed importers; requires improved economic analysis of FDA regulations.