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Published January 27, 2014, 05:04 PM

Farm bill conference report released; see it here

Agweek/The Hagstrom Report has obtained a copy of the farm bill conference report released just today. See it in its entirety.

By: Agweek Staff Report,

Agweek/The Hagstrom Report has obtained a copy of the farm bill conference report released just today. See it in its entirety. Click here

The Agricultural Act of 2014 eliminates the direct payment program and consolidates programs to improve their effectiveness and reduce duplication, according to the conference committee that released it today.

The committee adds that the bill also strengthens commitment to support farmers and ranchers affected by natural disasters or significant economic losses.

“I am proud of our efforts to finish a farm bill conference report with significant savings and reforms,” said Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. “We are putting in place sound policy that is good for farmers, ranchers, consumers, and those who have hit difficult times. I appreciate the work of everyone who helped in this process. We never lost sight of the goal, we never wavered in our commitment to enacting a five-year, comprehensive farm bill. I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting its passage.”

Meanwhile, major meat groups said today they will oppose the bill because they are disappointed it does not contain provisions to alter the country-of-origin labeling for red meat rules or to restrict implementation of a provision in the 2008 farm bill to alter the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s implementation of the Packers and Stockyards Act.

"This is a major victory for independent U.S. farmers and ranchers who want open and fair competition in the United States," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard, adding, "We owe a tremendous thank you to the congressional members who were steadfast in their support of COOL and the enforcement of our livestock competition laws."

“Today’s bipartisan agreement puts us on the verge of enacting a five-year farm bill that saves taxpayers billions, eliminates unnecessary subsidies, creates a more effective farm safety-net and helps farmers and businesses create jobs,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “This bill proves that by working across party lines we can reform programs to save taxpayer money while strengthening efforts to grow our economy. Agriculture is a bright spot in our economy and is helping to drive our recovery. It’s time for Congress to finish this Farm Bill and give the 16 million Americans working in agriculture the certainty they need and deserve.”

“I am pleased that we were able to work together, putting aside partisanship to finally advance a five-year farm bill,” said Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee. “Compromise is rare in Washington these days but it’s what is needed to actually get things done. While it’s no secret that I do not support some of the final bill’s provisions, I believe my reservations are outweighed by the need to provide long term certainty for agriculture and nutrition programs. This process has been going on far too long; I urge my colleagues to support this bill and the President to quickly sign it into law.”

Peterson had worked to find middle ground on a dairy provision that did not contain supply management. Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, said the farm bill report released today will help address volatility in milk prices and feed costs.

“The program that we have worked to develop establishes a reasonable and responsible national risk management tool that will give farmers the opportunity to insure against catastrophic economic conditions, when milk prices drop, feed prices soar, or the combination," he said. "By limiting how much future milk production growth can be insured, the measure creates a disincentive to produce excess milk. The mechanism used is not what we would have preferred, but it will be better than just a stand-alone margin insurance program that lacks any means to disincentivize more milk production during periods of over-supply.

“Importantly, the program doesn’t discriminate against farms of differing sizes, or preferentially treat those in differing regions.

“The revised bill also establishes a system for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) purchase consumer-packaged dairy products during low-margin periods, which will stimulate demand and help dairy farmers when they need it most, and only then.

“This bill reflects a lot of hard work and conscientious effort to help strengthen American agriculture and assure consumers of food and fiber that it is nutritious and affordable,” said Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “The reforms, savings and other significant changes in this agreement will provide greater certainty to producers and rural communities, as well as American consumers. It deserves to be considered and enacted as soon as possible.”

According to the committee, the legislation:

•Repeals the direct payment program and strengthens risk management tools.

•Repeals outdated programs and consolidates duplicative ones, eliminating nearly 100 programs or authorizations.

•Helps farmers and ranchers create jobs and provides certainty for the 16 million Americans working in agriculture.

•Strengthens conservation efforts to protect land, water and wildlife for future generations.

•Maintains food assistance for families while addressing fraud and misuse in SNAP.

•Reduces the deficit by billions of dollars in mandatory spending.

•Boosts export opportunities for farmers.

•Creates initiatives to help veterans start agriculture businesses.

•Invests in research to promote productivity and new agricultural innovations.

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said the farm bill is important for his state "so that our producers will have the confidence and tools they need to run their operations."

Balance of the competing interests was important to U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

“I’m confident that this farm bill strikes the right balance to make sure a strong safety net will be provided to North Dakota’s diverse agricultural system, which leads the nation in the production of over 13 different commodities,” Heitkamp said.

“For too long, our farmers and ranchers have faced uncertainty because of delays in Washington.”

An early winter storm in South Dakota and southwest North Dakota, in which thousands of cattle died, gave an urgency to passing the bill, U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said.

“The hundreds of producers who lost cattle may soon be offered relief and certainty going forward,” she said. “At the same time, we’ve been able to maintain a strong crop insurance program, make it easier for the Forest Service to combat the pine beetle crisis, protect our native grasslands, support research and offer billions of dollars in savings to taxpayers.”

A member of the conference committee that reached the final deal, Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, said she was glad fellow committee members agreed with her efforts to provide more support for rural development projects, conservation programs, agricultural research, the Rural Energy for America program and other energy programs.

The bill “strengthens the crop insurance program, boosts our energy and conservation programs, reduces the deficit and gives our farmers and ranchers the certainty they need to grow and thrive,” Klobuchar said.