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Mixed response to controversial US farm bill

By Carina Perkins , 15-Jul-2013

Mixed response to controversial US farm bill

US farmers have expressed mixed reactions to the passing of a new farm bill by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives last week.

The controversial bill, which focuses solely on farm programmes and omits food stamp programmes, was passed in a 216-208 partisan vote. It includes a extension to the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), the Livestock Forage Program (LFP) and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP), which were originally authorised in the 2008 Farm Bill.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) warned that splitting the bill to remove nutrition was a “shortsighted strategy”, which would threaten the bipartisan coalition of rural and urban members in the House.

NFU president Roger Johnson said: “[The] strictly partisan vote to pass the farm bill apart from the nutrition title undermines the long-time coalition of support for a unified, comprehensive farm bill, which has historically been written on a bipartisan basis.

“NFU will continue to do all it can to get a reasonable bill through the conference process. Any final legislation must continue existing permanent law provisions and include meaningful safety net protections for both family farmers facing difficult times and the food insecure.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman also raised concerns over the split, but said his organisation would now focus its efforts on “working with lawmakers to deliver a farm bill to the president’s desk for his signature by September”.

Livestock support welcomed

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) president Scott George said that removing the nutrition aspect of the bill was “unprecedented”, but that he was pleased that the House had passed a bill that incorporated “priorities important to the cattle industry.”

“We are very pleased that this legislation includes disaster programs for our producers, which will extend disaster assistance for five years and retroactively covers losses in 2012 and 2013. The legislation authorizes conservation programs important to cattle producers as a tool to leverage private dollars with some federal support to further protect the land and natural resources. It contains language to prevent the United States Department of Agriculture from moving forward on the proposed GIPSA rule from the 2008 Farm Bill,” he said.

“There are also important amendments included in the legislation which rein in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These amendments provides regulatory relief to cattle producers, prevent EPA from releasing producers’ personal information to third parties such as environmental activist groups and prohibit EPA from regulating forest roads under the Clean Water Act (CWA)."

Speaking ahead of the vote, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) president said that while removing nutrition from the bill was an “unorthodox approach”, the NPPC would support the decision if it led to the passage of a new farm bill.

Long process

Food stamps were central to the House’s rejection of a $500bn farm bill in June, with Democrats arguing that cuts to programmes were too deep and Republicans pushing for cuts to go further.

Republican Kristi Noem, who voted in favour of the new bill, said: “This process hasn’t been easy and we still have a long way to go to get a Farm Bill signed into law. I remain committed to the end-game, which is to ensure we have sound policy that provides a safety net and certainty for our agriculture community.

“Splitting the Farm Bill is not ideal and certainly wasn’t the path I would have chosen, but at the end of the day, we need to get a Farm Bill into Conference with the Senate.”

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