Senate passes Farm Bill – an important step for rural America

Center for Rural Affairs

Dallas Examiner | 6/21/2013, 2:53 p.m.

LYONS, Nebraska – On Monday, the U.S. Senate passed their version of the 2013 Farm Bill by a vote of 66 to 27. The House of Representatives is now likely to take up the Farm Bill as early as next week.

“While there are a number of good provisions in the Senate Farm Bill worthy of note, the question of setting rural priorities that efficiently invest public dollars in farm and rural programs that have a positive impact on rural America is still in question,” said Traci Bruckner, assistant policy director of the Center for Rural Affairs. “Continuing to provide unlimited crop insurance premium subsidies to megafarms while failing to increase our investments in things like conservation and rural development is not good public policy. We can do better than this.”

We applaud the Senate for passing a Farm Bill that for the first time in a generation closes the gaping loopholes that have made a mockery of farm program payment limitations, Bruckner said. And we thank Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., for their tireless advocacy for reducing the subsidies that megafarms use to drive family farmers out of business.

According to Bruckner, the Farm Bill that passed the Senate does put back some funding for beginning farmer and rancher training, rural small business loans and assistance, grants and loans for small town water and sewer systems, renewable energy and value-added enterprise grants for family farmers and ranchers. These investments are vitally important steps forward for rural America.

Bruckner went on to praise the efforts of Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., for leading a bipartisan group of Senators that secured a sod-saver provision in the Senate Farm Bill that prohibits federal commodity payments on newly broken native sod, and reduces the federal subsidy for crop and revenue insurance by 50 percent on native grass and prairie lands. It also requires that newly broken sod be isolated from other crop acres when calculating insurable yields.

“The sod-saver provision is common-sense legislation that will preserve grazing lands, protect hunting opportunities, and conserve vital soil resources,” Bruckner said.

Bruckner indicated that the Farm Bill could come to the floor for debate by the full House of Representatives soon, perhaps as early as next week.

“While timing is never certain, we are encouraged by several forward steps taken in the Senate Farm Bill. The bill isn’t perfect and we have a long row to hoe in the House, but we will continue to work to make greater strides as the Farm Bill moves toward conference committee,” Bruckner continued. “We also look forward to Rep. Fortenberry, R-Neb., offering an amendment similar to the farm program payment limitations provision offered by Sen. Grassley for the Senate Farm Bill. And we hope there are opportunities to cap crop insurance premium subsidies as well as retain the sod-saver and conservation compliance crop insurance reforms contained in the Senate Farm Bill.”

Regarding his introduction of farm payment limitation legislation, Fortenberry previously commented, “For the good of all Americans, it is critical that sound public policies create the conditions for continued agricultural prosperity and innovation. While respecting the federal government’s severe budgetary constraints, we need a new farm bill that provides our nation’s farmers adequate protection options, tightens payment limitations, promotes good conservation practices, embraces new domestic and international market opportunities, and helps young and beginning farmers set up agricultural businesses.”

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action-oriented programs addressing social, economic and environmental issues.