Farm Only Farm Bill Coming Right Up

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says a farm-only farm bill will be the only bill considered by the House today (Thursday). The House Rules Committee met late Wednesday on the bill - H.R. 2642 - and granted a closed rule for floor consideration. Cantor says the first votes will take place between 9:30 and 10:30 Central time - with the last votes between 11:30 and 12:30 Central time. It was still unclear late Wednesday night if the House leadership has the 218 votes needed to pass the bill. The measure is the committee-passed farm bill as amended on the floor minus the nutrition title. But the legislation would also repeal the 1938 and 1949 permanent law provisions and make the 2013 Title I permanent law going forward. According to a summary of the measure from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas - the new Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 saves taxpayers nearly 20-billion dollars - including six-billion in sequestration. The summary also notes the repeal or consolidation of more than 100 programs administered by USDA - including Direct Payments to farmers - and the repeal of outdated and unworkable permanent law, replacing it with the cost effective and market-oriented 2013 farm bill.

It's been said making the 2013 farm program bill permanent law would eliminate legislative triggers to rewrite a farm bill in the future. According to Lucas - market changes and changing circumstances would dictate rewrites in the future.

Chairman Lucas said splitting the farm bill was not his first choice - but he is now convinced it's the only way to proceed. During the first hour of Rules Committee debate - Democrats voiced strong reservations with bringing up a farm-program only bill. Lucas said the Ag Committee will write a new nutrition title and if the House doesn't pass one - the Senate Ag Committee could offer its nutrition title in conference. But Lucas pointed out that food stamp law is permanent - and the Senate might not want to make any changes to it.

House Ag Ranking Member Collin Peterson still believes splitting the farm bill is a big mistake in the long run. He said the leadership is ignoring the advice of most of the groups affected by the bill. Peterson added that he sees no clear path to getting a bill passed by the House and Senate and signed by the President.

Here are more specifics on the legislation from Lucas:

Reducing Farm Policy Spending

FARRM includes the most significant reduction to farm policy in history by improving agricultural programs to be cost-effective and market-oriented.

* Direct Payments are eliminated and no payments are made to those who don't farm.

* Traditional farm policy is cut by almost $23 billion – a record 36 percent reduction. Cuts include repealing Direct Payments, Counter-Cyclical Payments, the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program, and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE).

* Producers are limited to a risk management option that offers protection only when they suffer significant losses.

* FARRM improves upon crop insurance, a successful public/private partnership that ensures farmers have skin in the game.

* In total, farm policy spending is reduced by almost $14 billion.

* Repeals outdated and unworkable permanent law (1949 Act) and replaces it with the cost effective and market-oriented 2013 farm bill.

Providing Regulatory Relief

FARRM includes multiple regulatory relief provisions that in total is the largest regulatory relief measure to be voted on this year.

* Eliminates a duplicative permitting requirement for pesticides. (H.R. 935)

* Prohibits EPA from implementing the unjustified and unscientific biological opinions of the National Marine Fisheries Service until there is an unbiased, scientific peer review of those opinions.

* Requires regulatory agencies across the government to use scientifically sound information in moving forward with their regulatory initiatives.

* Requires the Secretary of Agriculture to advocate on behalf of farmers and ranchers as other agencies move forward with regulations affecting food and fiber.

* Eliminates duplicative reporting requirement for seed importers.

* Addresses concerns of farmers and ranchers with regard to access to essential crop protection tools.

Additional Reforms

* Eliminates or combines 23 duplicative and overlapping conservation programs into 13, saving over $6 billion.

* Reauthorizes, strengthens, and fully pays for livestock disaster assistance. These programs were ended in 2011 to fund the Democrats other priorities.

* Fully funds core specialty crop industry priorities such as Specialty Crop Block Grants.

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