Floor Statement by Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson


Floor Statement by Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson

H.R. 1947, The Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act

“Thank you Mr. Speaker. I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

“Today, the House of Representatives finally begins debating a new, five year farm bill. This process has gone on long enough and it’s time to pass a bill.

“The farm bill gives farmers and ranchers the necessary tools to provide American consumers with the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world. The bill includes farm, conservation, trade, nutrition, credit, rural development, research, forestry, energy and specialty crop programs.

“With roughly 16 million American jobs tied to agriculture, the farm bill is a jobs bill. The rural economy remained strong during our nation’s financial crisis and that has continued during our recovery; this is in large part due to agriculture. And this is why the farm bill is so important. Failing to pass a new, five-year farm bill could potentially devastate our rural economy. Why would we want to jeopardize the one part of the economy that has been, and continues to be, working?

“I often tell people that the Agriculture Committee is perhaps the least partisan of all the Committees in Congress. We listen to each other, try to understand each other and work together in the best interests of our constituents.

“The bill before us today is a compromise that reflects that tradition. It is a compromise between commodities and regions, and urban and rural members. I didn’t get everything I wanted; Chairman Lucas didn’t get everything he wanted but that’s how the legislative process is supposed to work.

“The bill makes major reforms to farm programs. Repealing direct payments saves taxpayers nearly $40 billion dollars and will ensure that farmers won’t get a government subsidy for doing nothing. Instead, producers are given the choice between two counter-cyclical farm safety net programs, addressing either price declines or revenue losses, which only support farmers during difficult times. The bill also sets new income requirements so individual millionaires won’t receive farm payments and it continues the no cost sugar program.

“H.R. 1947 also makes significant reforms to dairy programs, the result of more than four years of work and compromise by the dairy industry. The new dairy safety net will address the volatility in the dairy market, helping consumers by making all milk prices more stable and eliminating the price spikes that are normal in today’s marketplace.

“The 2008 Farm Bill was the first farm bill to address the growing demand for fresh fruits and vegetables, local foods and organics. The 2013 Farm Bill continues this investment by increasing funding for specialty crop block grants, providing support for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, and authorizing the very first organic checkoff for research and promotion.

“We also recognize the challenges facing many beginning farmers by including support for outreach and education to beginning, socially disadvantaged and military veteran farmers and ranchers. The bill also streamlines and reforms current conservation programs, better targeting resources to allow farmers and ranchers to continue to preserve our valuable natural resources.

“A lot of attention has been given to the bill’s cuts to nutrition programs, more than $20 billion over ten years. Personally, I would prefer to update the income and asset limits in the SNAP program so we don’t have these situations where bordering states use different eligibility requirements, but the support wasn’t there for that.

“The cuts to nutrition spending have received most of the attention but we were able to provide additional support for TEFAP, increase funding for the Community Food Projects, with a focus on low-income communities and provide more resources to help USDA’s anti-trafficking efforts.

“While I think it’s ridiculous to cut hundreds of billions of dollars, as some members have called for, it’s also just not realistic to refuse to cut one penny from these programs. I do believe that we can make some reasonable, responsible reforms and, at the end of the day, find some middle ground that will allow us to complete our work on this bill.

“I know we are going to have a lot of amendments but it’s my opinion that in order for the bill to be conferenced, to be able to get a new bill signed into law before September 30, we need to keep this a bipartisan bill and not stray too far from what was approved in Committee. I know that compromise is rare around here but it’s what is needed to finally get a new five-year farm bill completed.

“With that Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.”

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6.18.2013