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July 10th, 2012

Farm Bill In Progress: The House’s Turn

By Patty Lovera

Patty Lovera

Food & Water Watch Assistant Director Patty Lovera

Now that the Senate has finished its version of the farm bill, it’s the House’s turn. Tomorrow, July 11, the House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to begin its draft they’re calling the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FAARM, naturally). This “mark up” process starts with a draft of the bill that was released last week and will include debate on amendments offered by members of the committee.

The House version being considered by the committee has some significant differences from the version passed by the Senate besides its moniker. It maintains many existing commodity crop programs that make payments for farmers based on crop price, while the Senate version ends those programs and shifts commodity producers to a crop insurance model. Both the House and Senate versions do away with direct payments to commodity crop producers, a type of payment that is not tied to market conditions or actual production.

The House version makes much deeper cuts in nutrition programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, primarily by restricting who is eligible.

The House version ends important programs for sustainable agriculture and beginning farmers, including the National Certification Cost-Share Assistance Program for organic farmers and handlers. Also, the House version guts the already insufficient regulatory process for approving genetically engineered crops.

This is just the beginning of a long list of problems in the draft that the committee will consider. In addition, we’re on the look out for potential dirty tricks that could ensue during the mark up process, including:

  • possible attempts to gut country-of-origin labeling
  • possible attempts to weaken what remains of fair livestock marketing rules developed by the Grain Inspection Packers & Stockyards Administration
  • possible attempts to prevent USDA from developing an inspection program for domestic and imported catfish, a job the department was given in the last farm bill.

One good prospect on the horizon is an amendment from Representative Pingree that would make USDA offer technical assistance to small meat and poultry plants. This amendment is derived from her Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act (HR3286).

We’ll keep you posted as the House mark up process unfolds. In the meantime, find out if your representative is on the House Agriculture Committee here and tell them to make vital changes to the farm bill.


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