Thursday, January 30, 2014
 
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Lucas praises House passage of farm bill conference report

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[January 30, 2014]  WASHINGTON House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas issued the following statement Thursday after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Agricultural Act of 2014 by a vote of 251-166.

"I am pleased a majority of my House colleagues joined me in supporting a five-year, comprehensive farm bill. I appreciate the efforts of everyone who helped get us here. This is legislation we can all be proud of because it fulfills the expectations the American people have of us. They expect us to work together to find ways to reduce the cost of the federal government. The Agricultural Act contributes major savings to deficit reduction, significant reforms to policy, and yet still provides a safety net, not only for the production of American food and fiber, but also to ensure our fellow citizens have enough food to eat. I am hopeful this legislation will enjoy the same success when the Senate considers it, and I encourage the president to sign it quickly into law," Lucas said.

More information, including the text of the legislation (PDF), is available at this link.

Farm policy reforms

The Agricultural Act of 2014 includes the most significant reduction to farm policy spending in history by improving agricultural programs.

  • Repeals direct payments and limits producers to risk management tools that offer protection when they suffer significant losses.

  • Limits on payments are reduced, eligibility rules are tightened, and means tests are streamlined to make farm programs more accountable.

  • Strengthens crop insurance, a successful public-private partnership that ensures farmers invest in their own risk management.

  • Provides historic reforms to dairy policy by repealing outdated and ineffective dairy programs. Offers producers a new, voluntary margin-protection program without imposing government-mandated supply controls.

  • Supports small businesses and beginning farmers and ranchers with training and access to capital.

Food stamp reforms

The Agricultural Act of 2014 makes the first reforms to the food stamp program since the welfare reforms of 1996, while maintaining critical food assistance to families in need.

  • Closes the "heat-and-eat" loophole that artificially increases benefit levels when states provide nominal assistance in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

  • Establishes a 10-state pilot to empower states to engage able-bodied adults in mandatory work programs.

  • Prohibits USDA from engaging in recruitment activities for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and advertising SNAP on TV, radio, billboards and through foreign governments.

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  • Ensures illegal immigrants, lottery winners, traditional college students and the deceased do not receive benefits.

  • Ensures SNAP recipients are not receiving benefits in multiple states.

  • Prevents abuses such as water dumping to exchange bottles for cash.

  • Demands outcomes from existing employment and training programs.

  • Prohibits states from manipulating SNAP benefit levels by eliminating medical marijuana as an allowable medical expense.

  • Allows states to pursue retailer fraud through a pilot investigation program and to crack down on trafficking through data mining, terminal ID and other measures.

  • Increases assistance for food banks.

Additional reforms and regulatory relief

The Agricultural Act of 2014 includes multiple regulatory relief provisions benefiting agricultural and forestry industries.

  • Consolidates 23 duplicative and overlapping conservation programs into 13.

  • Provides one year of full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, known as PILT, which provides funding for vital services in communities containing federal lands.

  • Provides certainty to the forest products industry by clarifying that forest roads and related silvicultural activities should not be treated as a point source under the Clean Water Act.

  • Creates a permanent subcommittee within the .Science Advisory Board of the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct peer review of EPA actions that would negatively affect agriculture.

  • Enhances coordination between the U.S. Department of Agriculture, EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration regarding the conflict between laws governing pesticide use and the Endangered Species Act.

  • Enhances coordination between USDA and the U.S. FWS regarding actions taken to manage the lesser prairie chicken.

  • Eliminates duplicative reporting requirements for seed importers; requires improved economic analysis of Food and Drug Administration regulations.

[Text from news release from the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture]

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