In keeping you current with what’s happening with the Farm Bill, yesterday the Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act (also known as the 2012 Farm Bill) by a vote of 64-35. While far from a perfect bill, there are a few things in this measure that are worth noting. $150 million in critical funding for rural economic development and new farmer programs was restored through an amendment introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH). That’s $35 million for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, the keystone new farmer program at USDA; $50 million over five years for the Value-Added Producer Grants program that helps farmers transition to new markets and products that return more of the consumer food dollar back to the farmer and the local community; $15 million for the Rural Micro-entrepreneur Assistance Program to help start new small rural businesses; and $50 million to begin to eliminate the backlog in water and sewer projects in small rural communities.
Additionally, Senate adoption of amendments by Senator Chambliss (R-GA) on soil and wetland conservation, and Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Coburn (R-OK) on crop insurance subsidy limits are key progressive developments for the legislation. These amendments, along with others like Senator Merkley’s (D-OR) on crop insurance for organic farmers and Senator Grassley’s (R-IA) on commodity payment limit reform, significantly improved the bill.
All eyes now turn to the House of Representatives, a far more conservative body than the Senate, and one not as friendly towards progressive activity. The House Agriculture Committee this week announced a delay in their consideration of the bill and House Majority Leader Cantor (R-VA), has not listed the farm bill for potential action on the House floor this summer and is quoted this week saying he wants to “push the pause button” on the bill and assess the political situation.
On the bright side, it’s fairly impressive that during election season, the Senate actually passed a significant piece of legislation with bi-partisan support. The House, however, will be a much tougher climb for this bill. The current Farm Bill expires on September 30.