Today, in a 251-166 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 2014 Farm Bill. We appreciate the courageous votes cast by the majority of the Texas delegation in favor of the bill's passage. Realizing how important the bill is to all Americans, not just farmers and ranchers, we hope the Senate soon follows in the House's footsteps and approves the bill so that it can be sent to President Obama's desk for his signature. A no vote on this bill accomplished nothing. No reforms, no benefits, nothing. We realize that not everyone got exactly what they wanted in the 2014 Farm Bill. This bill was truly a work of compromise, and we believe the conference committee struck a good balance and made significant reforms, not only to farm programs but also to nutrition and other programs. If passed by the Senate and signed into law, this bill will provide certainty that Texas farmers and ranchers need as they move forward in preparation for the spring and seasons to come.
"Agriculture and all of its supporting industries desperately need a five-year farm bill and the stability it brings. This legislation offers that stability after years of uncertainty, waiting, and short-term fixes, and it does so ahead of the spring planting season. The biggest issue facing agriculture in my district and throughout most of Texas is the drought. I appreciate the permanent livestock disaster program in this bill, which livestock producers of all sizes throughout our region of the country will readily welcome. I believe that the reforms made to commodity programs are sorely needed and will strengthen the political viability of these programs into the future. Having additional risk management tools available to producers who are increasingly competing in a global market should be quite helpful as well. At the same time, I am profoundly disappointed that the bill does not take the opportunity to resolve some very important issues affecting livestock. The country of original labeling (COOL) rule proposed by the Administration is unworkable and puts our livestock industry at a significant disadvantage. That requirement should have been repealed, and we should continue to work to repeal it. Similarly, Congress has regularly prevented the implementation of the controversial provisions of the GIPSA marketing rule through the appropriation process. I assume we will continue to do so, but it would have been better to remove that threat permanently. There was also a missed opportunity to resolve the issue related to horse processing, and so the needless suffering of old and unwanted horses will continue, as will the effects on the value of horses across the country. Finally, I would strongly prefer to make greater reforms in food stamps and other nutrition programs, such as those contained in the House-passed version. But, given the realities of the political situation in Washington, I believe that the savings and reforms in this bill are a step, at least, in the right direction."
More information can be found at this link provided by the House Agriculture Committee.
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.
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