Following difficult years in rural America, I believe Congress must continue to work within a realistic budget, establish clear priorities, and use restraint in the expenditure of taxpayer funds with regard to agricultural programs.
On January 29, 2014, H.R. 2642, the Agricultural Act of 2014, known as the Farm Bill Conference Report, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 251-166. I voted in favor of this legislation. The Farm Bill was signed into law on February 7, 2014.
The Farm Bill authorizes agriculture programs for five years, significantly reduces and reforms farm policy spending and food stamp expenditures, resulting in $23 billion dollars in taxpayer savings over 10 years.
Here are a few highlights of the Agricultural Act of 2014:
Permanently authorizes vital tools to manage livestock production risk including the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Livestock Forage Disaster Program and Emergency Assistance for Livestock producers.
Repeals direct payments and strengthens risk management tools.
Strengthens the crop insurance program.
Funds specialty crop industry priorities.
Reauthorizes the U.S. sugar policy at zero cost to the taxpayer.
Replaces outdated dairy programs with a new, voluntary, margin protection program.
Strengthens and consolidates conservation programs to save $6 billion over the next decade.
Makes significant reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program to address fraud and misuse while maintaining food assistance to families in need while reducing spending on food stamps by $8 billion over 10 years.
The Farm Bill contains significant reforms of the food stamp program and reduces its costs. The Farm Bill prohibits federal food stamp recruitment programs, closes the “heat-and-eat” loophole, establishes state-based pilot programs with a work requirement, and ensures illegal immigrants and lottery winners are ineligible for food stamps.
The Farm Bill also includes a number of provisions regarding management of public lands and natural resources, including two provisions I have been seeking for quite some time – a one-year extension of full mandatory funding for Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) payments, which reimburses counties for the income lost because of the presence of federal land; and language that limits the EPA’s regulation of forest roads under the Clean Water Act. The Farm Bill provides Congress with additional time to find a permanent funding source for PILT and ensures that the EPA’s regulatory appetite is curbed when it comes to forest roads.
The impact of the Farm Bill on Idaho’s farming and ranching families cannot be overestimated. Our ability to maintain a safe and domestic supply of food in the United States is tied directly to the policies put forth in the Farm Bill. People in our nation appreciate the complexities of maintaining a domestic supply of food, and we have to do everything we can to keep our food grown right here in the United States.
The 2014 Farm Bill is set to expire this year, and Congress plans to move forward with a new Farm Bill in the coming months. I have been in close contact with the House Agriculture Committee to stress the importance these policies have on Idaho ranchers and farmers. Whether it is grain, dairy, potatoes, sugar, or many other commodities – we need a Farm Bill that benefits rural America. I look forward to working on this critical legislation in 2018.
For more information and to stay up to date on the next Farm Bill, please visit https://agriculture.house.gov/farmbill/