tv [untitled] April 26, 2012 10:30am-11:00am EDT
we're going live to the russell senate office building where the agriculture building is taking up the 9 hup-page farm bill. the bill would end direct cash payments to farmer saving $50 billion over the next decade. most of that money would be put into a new insurance program to pay farmers if crop and commodity prices fall below a certain level. what you'll see here today is the committee going over the bill section by section. we talk with a reporter on capitol hill.
chuck abbott is on capitol hill covering the farm bill for reuters. what are the few changes in the bill? >> most notably the proposal being put -- given to the committee by chairman stabenow will just create a new farm support system. since the 1930s, farm supports have been based on government's chance to prop up market prices. particularly within the last six or seven years, we've had a run of very high prices, unusually we've had a record high prices
and there's a belief that a new system would be a better choice. and this new system would be an assurance-like program which would protect farmer revenue against low prices in the event of bad weather. it's a more comprehensive approach to farm supports than has been used since farm subsidies began. that's the big thing in what's called a commodity title. in the conservation portion of the bill, less land would be set aside for long term -- set aside from crops for long periods of time and more attention would be paid on what sus called working lands which is the land that produces crops, and the idea is that there would be more of a focus of lower costs support that encourages farmers to practice soilwater and wildlife conversation as part of producing crops. >> it sounds like major changes.
how are groups reacting to it? what kind of lobbying is happening? >> well, it -- as you know, the mark-up was delayed for a day because some of the groups, particularly southern producers' rice and peanuts were unhappy with what was in the bill. this -- the approach that -- chairwoman stabenow is taking to what is called a shallow loss revenue protection program is most popular in the midwest, which means it appeals to corn and soybean growers the most. it has some support from wheat growers. it's less popular in the south where growers say crop insurance has not been a good deal for them and so creating another program similar to crop insurance may have its drawbacks. and the rice growers, particularly, as i said. because there was very little in the bill offered for them back in the fall during that super
committee process. the leaders tried to balance there all off by saying some crops have higher target prices which means higher price for their products, and we'll give other crops the chance to use this remember knew program, but the target prices were taken out of the bill that's been presented to the committee. >> the bill is some 900 pages long. >> correct. it is. >> can you give us an idea of the scope of the bill? how many does it impact sth. >> one could say it affects everybody in the united states because it affects food production. that's a simple but rather large way or expansive way of defining it. it affects people who care about the environment because farmers control something like 900 million acres of la nnld the
united states, which is a good chunk of land of the united states. and there's also a nutrition section in the bill which most prominently is called food stamps or the supplemental nutrition assistance program and that affects somewhere around one in seven or one in eight americans right now because of the high unemployment rate. there's also sexes on what's called energy but mostly attempts to development bioenergy. in this case, it would be second-generation bio fuels and to come up with biomass crops that could be another way for farmers to make money, aside from traditional food crops. the bill has more than a dozen titles. i mean there's -- there's mention of research projects, there's international food aid programs. there's export promotion
programs. there's programs to encourage farmers overseas to grow more food themselves so they don't have to rely on international aid when they run short on food. it is an incredibly expansish bill. >> chuck abbott is a commodities correspondent on capitol hill hill covering for reuters. thank you. >> you're welcome. >> faw have arrived. senators leahy, grassley, and johannes are waiting for committee chairperson debbie stabenow. it was originally scheduled for yesterday, but it was postponed amid opposition to some of the cuts and subsidies to rice, peanut, and cotton farmers.
politico writes that the new approach to payment with farmers is most popular in the midwest corn belt, and senator pat roberts who chairwoman stabenow talks with right now is close to wheat and crop insurance is supportive, but southern crops which typically benefit more from the current cash payments have more to lose. the senator is saying they're not going to satisfy peanuts and rice. it's just not a safety net while senator john below zeroman of arkansas says to get my support, there's going to have to be some compromise.
well, good morning, and welcome, everyone, this morning. i would call the meeting to order. the agriculture, nutrition, and forestry committee. now, this committee is unique. our hearing room doesn't have a raised base. instead we sit around a table, not unlike the tables that american families, american farmers sit around every day after a long day's work. the work we do around this table is hard. farm bills are never easy, and a farm bill like this, especially when we're making serious needed
reforms, while also cutting the deficit by $23 billion isn't easy, and i am very appreciative of all of the hard work of everyone sitting around this table. we've examined every program in the farm bill. we have reformed, streamlined, and consolidated to get perhaps the most significant reforms and agricultural policy in any farm bill in recent memory. we've listened to farmers. we've strengthened crop insurance, and made that the centerpiece of risk management. we have a risk management tool that supplements crop insurance that will work for farmers and save money. some of our members wanted an individual system. some wanted a county system. so we're giving farmers flexibility to decide what's the best for their farm and the risks that they face. we have the tightest payment limits ever, and i want to thank senator grassley for his
tireless work on this issue. we now have one simplified limit on income of $750,000. we will give farmers the assistance they need when there are losses, and it will be based on what's actually planted. in other words, the era of direct payments is over. we are working to strike a balance among the different regions and commodities. we will now have a permanent baseline for livestock disaster assistance, and i want to say a special thank-you to senator baucus for his advocacy and hard work on that issue. in short, we have put together a bipartisan farm bill that's focused on farmers and that gives them simplicity, flexibility, and real accountability. we're continuing the incredible work that gets done every single day because of the conservation title, we're reducing complexity
and changing programs to protect the farmers who protect our land and wildlife. we're making sure every dollar does the most good. we're continuing our nation's commitment to those most in need. everywhere i go in michigan i hear from people who never before in their lives imagined they would need help putting food on table for their families. we need every dollar going to those people who need it and not to waste or abuchls we're expanding export and increasing research and supporting bioenergy and biomanufacturing companies who are creating jobs across the country. we recognize the diversity of american agriculture with a renewed commitment to specialty crops and organic farms as well as support for farmers' markets
and food hops. we've streamlined the development title and helped those who never received funding or were due employ kaive of other efforts so we could extend and simplify world development loans that have proven effective for world job creators and local infrastructure jobs that we know are so important in communities we represent. this farm bill, as we all know, is a jobs bill. and you can see it in every title on every page. 16 million people work in this country because of ail culture. i would call that a jobs bill. america's the world leader in agriculture exports, and that success is not only critically important for our economy and the 16 million people whose jobs rely on ail culture, but also for our national security. that's why we're so committed to getting this done this year, and this mark-up is the first step in that process.
i want to thank all of our wonderful staff who have worked so hard to get us to this point. i want to thank the didn't of agriculture for all of their hard work and help as we've gone through the process, and i want to thank ever single member of this committee who have brought very important ideas to the table and worked very hard in good faith to get us to today's mark-up. and finally i want to thank my great partner senator roberts for all of the long hours and hard work we have done together to write a farm bill that makes sense for farmers, ranchers, rural communities, and american taxpayers and consumers. this has been a long and winding road with more to come, and i greatly appreciate our partnership. i would now like to recognize senator roberts. >> it's a privilege to be with
you here today as we mark up the agriculture reform, restore reform. the food & jobs act of 2012. i you for your comments, and i return the comment. this legislation represents the final product of numerous hearings, many hearings and months of discussions as we've worked to write a new farm bill during the most difficult budget climate in our nation's history. i am proud to say that we have put together a bipartisan bill that strengthens and preserves the safety net for our farmers and ranchers. and truly, it was an effort in a bipartisan way. still, i want to undercore what the gentleman has said. we are still providing $24.7 billion in deficit reduction under that mark as drafted. i don't know of any other committee that has done this. we did this priestly with the
super committee, and now we're doing it again. and so, in terms of deficit reduction i think we're standing up to our responsibilities. let me repeat it. we've drafted a bill that provides $24.7 billion in deficit reduction. we have eliminated, as you have indicated, madam chairwoman, four commodity programs, rolled them into one, saving approximately $15 billion from farm safety net programs without really disturbing the safety net. 23 conservation programs are streamlined into 13 while saving nearly $6.4 billion. $4 billion is saved in the nutrition title. 15 program authorizations are eliminated in the world of element title eliminating over $1 billion of authorized spending over two years. two programs are combined and another two eliminated in specialty crops, $1.2 billion in mandatory money is transferred to discretionary and the energy title. five programs are eliminated in the forestry title reducing authorizations by at least $20
million. and over 60,000s are eliminated from the research title, reducing authorizations by at least $770 million over five years. madam chairman, that is $24.7 billion, or if you're writing in the press, almost $25 billion in mandatory savings. at least $1.8 billion in reduced discretionary authorizations and at least 96 programs are authorizations eliminated. that's the speech i think we're probably going to have to give on the floor of the senate when we get the bill to the floor of the senate to prove to the critics that this is a reform bill. no other committee in the house or senate has voluntarily undertaken programmatic and funding reforms at this level in this budget climate. this is not only a reform bill. this is one that strengthens and preserves our farm risk management, our conservation, our research, and our rural community programs. we have strengthened and preserved a crop insurance
program. that is the number-one priority of virtually every producer that testified before our committee. number one. without question, any region that we went to, every hearing that we've had, drop insurance on behalf of farmers and ranchers in the ag lending commune, that's been number one. we've stream linled our commodity programs while reducing the complexity for the producer. we've updated the acreage upon which support is based to reflect more recent cropping patterns. and that's a point i really want to discuss a little bit more. in recent days, it has seemed there has been a little confusion here in the capital region that seems that some think we should write farm safety net programs and allocate their funding by commodity group organization. if all you did was listen to these groups you'd think we're robbing peter to pay paul. i understand that the elimination of direct payments is a big deal to many commodities. well, i originally authorized that program back in 1996.
one of the biggest beneficiaries of the program has been wheat, especially in kansas. but the taxpayers have been clear in this budget climate, why should congress defend a program based on planning acreages established over 25 years ago? yes, the elimination of direct payments means the end of many wheat payments in kansas and other wheat-producing areas. but that does not mean kansas producers will no longer have a farm safety net. quite the contrary, they'll have a strong risk-management program. it will just be for different crops. why am i saying that? because when they were established 25 years ago, kansas planted 2.8 million acres of corn, 4.2 acres of sorghum, 1.6 ac acres -- in the most recent period, kansas farmers and in other states very similarly planted 4.6 million acres of
corn, 2.6 million acres of sorghum, 4 million acres of soybeans, and 8.8 million acres of wheat. that's 4.9 million acres fewer. now, these acreage shifts have occurred because farmers made those decisions. not washington. our producers have planted for the domestic and the international market. money is shifting among many commodities because farmers are farming differently throughout the states on this committee. it is not shifting because we are intentionally picking winners and losers. i am very proud of this legislation. we worked hard to put together not the best possible bill but the best bill possible under difficult circumstances. we've performed our duty to taxpayers by cutting deficit spending while at the same time strengthening and preserving the program so important to agriculture and rural america. and we've done it, again, madam chairman, in a bipartisan fashion. thank you for bringing us to this point today and let's pass
this farm bill. >> well, thank you very, very much for your comments. and now we want to hear from members. as we do with a mark-up, we'll recognize members in order of seniority alternating from one side to the other. so, senator leahy. >> thank you, madam chairwoman, and also ranking member roberts. you and i have discussed this many, many times. late last night we did. i was able to go home and go to bed. i know that you stayed up working. and i think of the fact that you two work together, and i looked out at the end of this room at the pictures of senator lugar and myself. we chaired -- we chaired this committee at different times. we were each ranking members at different times. and we're proud of getting farm bills when you work together in a bipartisan fashion. i nknow it was great working wih
senator lugar on that, and i've worked with senator roberts and you. it's the only way it works. you don't get a perfect bill, but you get a bill that can pass and you get a bipartisan bill. and that's the way the senate used to be. that's the way the senate should be. incidentally, when dick and i started we sat down about where those paintings are. we were that junior. your mark includes an important dairy reform proposal that i believe will help our producers and consumers -- excuse me -- this dairy reform proposal can help our producers and consumers get off the dangerous price swings. i think it's key to can trgs of the farm bill. i know farmers in vermont are watching it closely, as i am. i hope that we can find a bipartisan compromise that will create both a new margin
protection program and allow our farmers to have a proactive effort in their -- in their farm programs. go a long way towards easing the volatility in dairy markets with the dairy market stabilization program. just like corn, wheat, soybeans, sugar, cotton, others in our country, dairy farmers work hard for a living and none of us want to leave them out. you've made great developments in rural development and conservation titles. i know both of you have worked to consolidate what had been a confusing alphabet soup of programs and authorization. i continue to work with you on the new agriculture conservation easement program. i think we have to work now to slow the loss of farm land in this country. farm land is part of our national security. it is not sustainable. lose over 1 million acres of farm land each year. since this is the only federal
program available for farm land protection, more funding to the agriculture land easement. as the author of the organic foods production act, i'm extremely pleased that they continue to make strong improvements for organic agriculture as well as local foods. i'm very pleased that, chairwom chairwoman, you've agreed to accept my amendment. it effectively protects the forest's organic integrity that will give consumers confidence in the brand. the mark we're considering today also includes a critical anti-hunger program, such as supplemental nutritional assistance program, the emergency food assistance program. that's not just important in vermont. it is in every part of the -- of the country. and i'll continue to work with the both of you to include ways to make purchasing local food a reality in nutrition assistance program. and i want to applaud
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