Cramer Announces Passage of Five-Year Farm Bill in House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Kevin Cramer announced the U.S. House of Representatives passed a new five-year farm bill, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013. The bill meets the needs of North Dakota farmers, includes over $10 billion in savings, consolidates programs, and strengthens and provides options for crop insurance. All agriculture provisions and floor amendments in the first farm bill vote were included in today’s passage, with a separate bill addressing food stamps to be considered at a later date.
After the unsuccessful vote last month, Cramer made clear to Speaker John Boehner and House leadership the chamber must pass a farm bill. He actively encouraged colleagues in both parties to support the new version of the bill, which separates agriculture provisions from the food stamp program. The bill now moves to a joint conference committee for reconciliation between the House and Senate versions. Cramer will continue to engage with members of the conference committee in the coming weeks to keep its important provisions in place.
“The challenges presented by the current political climate required us to be creative in our approach to pass the bill, recognizing the potential for greater support once farm programs were separated from nutrition subsidies,” Cramer said. “This is a farm bill which works for North Dakota. We greatly improved on the Senate version of the bill by keeping a strong crop insurance safety net for famers without attaching forced conservation compliance. We also keep important programs for livestock and sugar. I was especially pleased my acre for acre wetlands mitigation amendment was successful. Unlike the Senate amendment which creates a study, this version creates law and gives us leverage going into conference committee to provide regulatory relief for our farmers.”
The farm bill passed today includes all amendments made to the bill during floor debate in June with the exception of those made to the food stamp title, including a change to wetlands mitigation policy introduced by Cramer.
Wetland mitigation amendment
In floor debate, the House of Representatives approved an amendment Cramer introduced which ensures a producer would be subject to no higher than a 1-for-1 acreage basis when enhancing, restoring or creating wetlands as part of the current USDA no net loss wetlands policy. Under the amendment, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can no longer subject farmers to higher requirements for wetlands restoration based on its own arbitrary judgment of land quality. The amendment was adopted into the final version passed by the House.
Cramer works to avert conservation compliance mandate
Cramer helped fend off an amendment which would have tied eligibility for crop insurance to compliance with conservation programs. Cramer stood by on the House floor with Chairman Lucas in opposition to the amendment when its two sponsors withdrew it from consideration. The two programs are now coupled only in the Senate version of the bill, which sets up a critical negotiation in conference committee.
The two provisions have not been linked since 1996. Additionally, the House bill saves $6 billion by consolidating duplicative conservation programs and streamlining the delivery of incentive funds to farmers, ranchers, and landowners.
“My top priority in addition to getting the bill passed was ensuring farmers can continue to access crop insurance without being forced to comply with conservation programs. I will continue to push strongly so this logic prevails in the conference committee,” said Cramer.
Commodity programs and crop insurance strengthened
The bill offers producers a choice between two types of risk management: Price Loss Coverage (PLC), which addresses deep, multi-year price losses, and Revenue Loss Coverage (RLC), which offers coverage based on county-wide losses.
The same Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) found in the Senate bill is also included in the House bill. It allows for the purchase of a wider, supplemental crop insurance policy for a portion of losses not addressed by an individual farm-based policy.
Water retention and flood prevention
The farm bill includes funding for water retention and flood prevention efforts, including programs which will continue to benefit the Red River Valley. More than $50 million in competitive assistance will be available each year through the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which consolidates four previously existing programs including the Agriculture Water Enhancement Program (AWEP).
Missouri River flood protection
An amendment to promote immediate increases in flood protection for agricultural interests in the Missouri River is included in the farm bill. The Secretary of Agriculture is directed to respond to the devastating flood in 2011 by supporting efforts to recalculate the amount of water storage needed for adequate protection, and increasing the capacity of the river channel.
No net cost sugar program maintained
Cramer, Chairman Lucas, and Ranking Democrat Peterson successfully urged colleagues on the House floor to reject an amendment which would have dismantled support for sugar farmers. The sugar program will continue to allow United States sugar producers to compete effectively in a heavily manipulated global marketplace. Brazil subsidizes its sugar production by approximately $2 to $3 billion per year, and the government of Mexico owns 1/5th of its sugar industry while subsidizing the rest.
“The idea that somehow this amendment creates free and fair trade is a fallacy, and the idea that somehow sugar has not been reformed in recent years and decades is also a fallacy,” said Cramer. “The idea that a no net cost program like the American sugar program is somehow a great advantage over countries like Brazil that subsidize with tax dollars two and a half to three billion per year is the most distorting fact in this debate. I agree with Ranking Member Peterson, who equated dismantling this program to unilateral disarmament of our sugar industry.”
Livestock programs renewed
The bill returns programs important to North Dakota ranchers and honey producers. The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), the Livestock Forage Program (LFP), the Emergency Livestock Extension Program (ELAP), and Honey Bees and Farm-Raised Fish Program were authorized in the 2008 farm bill but expired in October 2011.