Northern Ag Network
posted on July 30, 2012 06:00 :: 503 Views
The House Agriculture Committee released details Friday of a $621 million disaster package for farmers and ranchers that the House of Representatives will debate next week as part of a one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill.
Ranchers, other livestock producers, bee farmers and catfish farmers would see disaster programs renewed under the House bill. However, the proposal does not renew the crop disaster program -- Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE).
The package is seen as both a way for lawmakers to respond to the country's widespread drought as well as create a legislative vehicle for the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to begin conference talks for a five-year farm bill.
"Next week's schedule calls for consideration of a package that includes disaster assistance programs and a one-year extension of current farm policy," said House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., in a statement Friday. "It is critical that we provide certainty to our producers and address the devastating drought conditions that are affecting most of the country and I look forward to supporting and advancing this legislation."
Farm groups and the Obama administration have been pushing House leaders to respond to the drought and enact a farm bill, but both Republican and Democratic members of the House were divided on the legislation despite bipartisan support on the House Agriculture Committee. The bill could be debated on the House floor as early as Wednesday.
The House Rules Committee will meet Tuesday to discuss the legislation and how the amendment process for the legislation will function next week. The Rules Committee could restrict debate or allow an open rule that would create a longer, broader debate on farm and nutrition programs.
Details released Friday include a one-year extension of current farm and nutrition programs with certain modifications. Provisions are specifically included to deal with livestock disaster policies that expired last year. The package cost $621 million but lawmakers offset the disaster expenses with cuts in conservation programs.
The bill would re-authorize programs such as Livestock Indemnity Payments (LIP), Livestock Forage Disaster Programs (LFP), Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish (ELAP), and the Tree Assistance Program (TAP). These programs would be reauthorized for 2012 and 2013 under the House bill.
To pay for this disaster assistance, the House bill would cap the Environmental Quality Incentives Program at $1.4 billion; the Conservation Stewardship Program would be capped at 11 million acres; the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program would be capped at $150 million; and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) would be capped at $45 million.
In addition, the House package would make a slight cut to direct payments. The payments, which are currently paid on 85% of a producer's base acre, would be paid on 84.5% as a partial offset.
National Corn Growers Association President Garry Niemeyer released a statement saying farmers need a new, five-year farm bill. An extension doesn't offer the certainty farmers need, he said. But the bill does provide a vehicle for the House and Senate to craft a conference report.
"It is important to get to conference and pass a bill before the current law expires Sept. 30," Niemeyer said. "Continuing outdated farm policies will negatively impact agriculture, the federal budget, consumers and the economy."
While the House bill would not extend the SURE program for crop farmers, Democratic senators have offered legislation that would include the SURE program as part of any disaster legislation.
Posted by Russell Nemetz