Senate debate of S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, is expected to begin on May 20 and House Agriculture Committee approval of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FAARM) Act of 2013, H.R. 1947, positions the bill for possible floor consideration in June. The two budget saving measures are now one step closer to voting on a final House-Senate compromise farm bill by the Sept. 30 expiration date of the 2008 farm act, which Congress previously had extended for one year.
Both committee bills would replace direct payments to farmers with different versions of safety-net coverage for price or revenue losses, in particular for those that would be sustained over time. Crop insurance programs would be authorized to help producers manage risk due to weather-related damages or losses. The two bills propose to continue similar versions of conservation, trade and food-aid programs.
On a 36-10 bipartisan final passage vote late Wednesday night, the House committee cleared for chamber action its assembly of commodity, nutrition and rural development policies. The committee approval of H.R. 1947 occurred swiftly, within about 36 hours of the Senate committee's bipartisan adoption of S. 954, indicative of the urgency in trying to enact a bill by Sept. 30.
"We achieve nearly $40 billion in savings by eliminating outdated government programs and reforming others," House committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) said in a joint statement with Ranking Democrat Collin Peterson (D-MN) following the committee's final passage of H.R. 1947. "No other committee in Congress is voluntarily cutting money, in a bipartisan way," he said. Peterson said that if the bill deliberations can stay on track, he thinks "we should be able to conference with the Senate in July and have a new five-year farm bill in place before the August recess."
USA Rice Producer Group Chairman Linda Raun praised the House and Senate committees for their quick work to get the bills to the floor. Raun thanked rice-district and state committee members who worked closely with the USA Rice Federation to address farm policy needs. "I hope we keep advancing the two bills so we can have workable commodity and risk management programs passed and signed into law by the September deadline," she said.
USA Rice is prepared for the Senate debate next week and is continuing to inform key Senate offices about commodity, risk management, conservation and trade provisions that are important to the rice industry.
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