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Agribiz: Congress finally agrees on farm legislation cuts and aid

POSTED: January 29, 2014 6:53 p.m.

Developing the latest farm bill has become a marathon of sorts with farmers wondering if it would ever come to fruition.

Both houses of Congress finally have come to an agreement on several differences between the Senate and House versions.

The House of Representatives passed the bill Wednesday on a 251-66 vote and sent it to the Senate.

The law would cut food stamps by $800 million a year, twice the Senate’s original cut, but far less than the House wanted to save.

As expected, the bill would do away with direct payments to farmers, saving $4.5 billion a year, and rely more on crop insurance.

It also would avoid a controversial dairy price stabilization program that would force dairy producers to cut supply when prices drop too low. Instead the compromise bill would do away with price supports and allow farmers to purchase margin insurance that pays when feed costs and wholesale milk prices get too close.

Not everyone is welcoming some provisions in the bill. Cattlemen, poultry and pork producers are concerned the bill does not address the issues they face with the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration or Country-of-Origin Labeling.

Canada and Mexico have threatened to take action unless the U.S. loosens COOL regulations to be more compliant with the World Trade Organization.

The American Meat Institute, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Chicken Council, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Turkey Federation and the North American Meat Association are among the organizations that sent a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees.

“This retaliation will be crippling to our industries and threaten the long-term relationship with two of our most important export markets,” the groups said in the letter. “We are struck by the fact that a sensible resolution was not achieved for the GIPSA and COOL issues, and therefore, we will actively oppose final passage of the Farm Bill, if these issues are not addressed,” the groups said.

And the compromise farm bill will face some opposition in Congress.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday that some House members from both sides of the aisle will vote against the bill.

“I’ve always known that the folks at both ends of the spectrum would not support us,” said Lucas, an Oklahoma Republican. “It’s the coalition of the folks in the middle who want to get things done ... who will pass this bill.”

“If it was easy, it wouldn’t be the farm bill,” he said, according to Reuters.

Overall the industry is providing its blessings.

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, released a statement.

“The American Farm Bureau Federation urges House and Senate members to pass H.R. 2642, the 2014 Farm Bill. The bill will provide farmers and ranchers certainty for the coming year and allow the Agriculture Department to begin planning for implementation of the bill’s provisions.

“We appreciate the hard work of the conferees to get the farm bill to this point. They had many tough decisions to make, but were able to move forward with a solid bill that includes many Farm Bureau-supported provisions. We are particularly pleased with provisions to provide risk management to fruit and vegetable farmers and to support livestock farmers during disasters. We now urge House members to bring it on home by voting in support of the bill.

“It is imperative that all of agriculture unify behind this farm bill, for the good of the whole of American agriculture, consumers, our hard-working farm and ranch families and the rural communities they support.”

Source: GrowingGeorgia.com, Allison Floyd

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears biweekly on Thursday’s Business page and at gainesvilletimes.com.


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