Opening Statement of Chair. Frank D. Lucas Committee on Agriculture To Consider the 2013 Farm Bill

Dan Cattle, Citrus, Corn, Cotton, Dairy & Livestock, Energy, Environment, Field & Row Crops, Forage Crops, General, Grain, Industry News Release, Poultry, Seeds, Specialty Crops, Tree, nut & vine crops, Water

Today, we are considering H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013. It is the product of more than three years of work. This work began in the countryside with field hearings led by my friend and Ranking Member Collin Peterson.

There are often criticisms about the partisanship of Congress and how little is accomplished because folks can’t work together. This is not the case for the House Agriculture Committee. Today, this Committee will mark up a reform-minded farm bill that was developed with true bipartisanship. We’ll advance it with both Republican and Democratic votes. And, we’ll achieve nearly $40 billion in savings by eliminating outdated government programs and reforming others. No other authorizing committee in Congress is voluntarily cutting money from its jurisdiction to reduce the size and scope of the federal government.

The FARRM Act reforms the SNAP program for the first time since the welfare reforms of 1996. Our reforms rein in the cost of the program by enforcing the asset and income tests, ending recruitment activities that increase enrollment, and preventing states from circumventing the law to receive greater federal funding. We tighten restrictions to prevent lottery winners and traditional college students from participating in the program.

We also reform farm programs. We eliminate direct payments, which were paid to farmers regardless of market conditions and many times to farmers who were no longer farming. The FARRM Act reflects a belief in a true safety net – something used when disaster hits such as aggressive weather or down markets. This safety net is in the best interest of all of us because it enables us to have a stable and affordable food supply.

Title I is cut by nearly $23 billion, which is a reduction of more than 30 percent. This cut is made while still providing producers a new kind of safety net that allows them risk management choices. I’ve said many times that policy must work for all commodities in all regions. While I personally do not favor a revenue-style program, it is in the FARRM Act as a choice for producers because some of them believe they can manage their risk better with it.

The Conservation Title, which is extremely important to me since my days as chairman of that subcommittee, is reformed to reduce overlapping programs and streamline delivery. Conservation programs have grown in number and complication, which often confused producers. We responded by eliminating or consolidating duplicative programs. The FARRM Act eliminates 10 different programs which saves more than $6 billion. We continue to focus on working lands programs, instead of set-aside programs. We do not cut one penny from EQIP.

Beyond the reforms, I am also proud of the investments we make in this bill. Our farmers continuously tell us that crop insurance is the backbone of the farm safety net. The FARRM Act only makes it stronger. We provide new products such as the Supplemental Coverage Option that will provide important “gap coverage” to those who have not been able to afford such coverage in the past. We make yield improvements that address problems with declining Actual Production History yields due to multi-year disasters. All these improvements help producers mitigate risk. But, it’s important to remember that crop insurance does not protect against systemic, multi-year price declines. That is the job of the commodity title. And, our commodity title is one that I’m proud of.

We also make important investments to help our beginning farmers and ranchers. We provide enhanced risk management tools by providing reduced premiums for these new farmers who are the future of agriculture. Additionally, we make an unprecedented level of investment in specialty crops both in the horticulture title and the research title. And finally, we provide disaster assistance to our livestock producers. As many of you know, the livestock disaster assistance program enacted in the 2008 Farm Bill expired in 2011, leaving our livestock producers no protection at a time when a multi-year drought gripped the nation.

In closing, let me say just say that no one on this Committee is going to like everything in this bill – that includes me. But, farmers, ranchers, and the American taxpayer are counting on us to pass a farm bill. Let’s give certainty to an industry that has been a bright spot in an otherwise dismal economy; let’s give taxpayers billions of dollars in deficit reduction. Join the Ranking Member and me and support this legislation.