WASHINGTON -- USA Rice Federation Chairman Mark Denman and USA Rice Producers' Group Chairman Linda Raun today sent a letter to U.S. representatives from rice-producing districts expressing strong support for H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013, and urging opposition to harmful amendments.
Denman and Raun said passage of the farm bill is the responsible approach for taxpayers, farmers and others who are affected because "absent passage of a farm bill, taxpayer savings and reforms cannot be achieved and those impacted by the farm bill will face continued uncertainty."
"The USA Rice Federation particularly supports the Commodity, Conservation, Trade, and Crop Insurance Titles of the Farm Bill," the letter said. "We fully expect harmful amendments to be offered to the Commodity, Trade, and Crop Insurance Titles and we urge you to strongly oppose them."
H.R. 1947's commodity program title would reduce already lowered farm safety-net funding by another 36 percent, while serving as a response to record high foreign subsidies and tariffs that are still climbing, the letter says. The crop insurance title is important because historically, federal crop insurance has not worked for rice farmers. The House bill's crop insurance program provides a pathway for rice farmers and others who are underserved "to avail themselves of risk management tools that are tailored toward the perils that most affect their operations."
USA Rice supports the legislation's conservation title and is proud that rice fields play a dominant role for migratory bird habitat and other wetland-dependent species, which is made possible by conservation programs in the current farm statute. The trade title provides for highly successful public-private partnership programs that allow U.S. agriculture to open and promote commodities in export markets. The title also includes important food-aid policies that use U.S.-grown commodities for providing assistance to those in other countries suffering from food shortages.
Farm Bill Focus Turns to House Following Senate Passage
WASHINGTON -- USA Rice Producers' Group Chairman and Texas rice producer Linda Raun applauded yesterday's 66-27 Senate vote to pass its 2013 farm bill, S. 954. Raun said U.S. rice producers now are positioned to work for passage soon of the House bill, H.R. 1947, when that chamber's floor deliberations commence, possibly as early as next week. USA Rice Federation strongly supports the House committee bill, is coordinating the bill's floor-vote preparations with House leaders and is communicating its views to rice-district House members. Today, USA Rice joined with 193 other organizations in sending a letterto all House members to express "strong support for a new five-year bill and commend the House Committee on Agriculture for advancing a bill for timely action" by the House.
"The USA Rice Federation congratulates Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS) for their successful leadership in achieving passage of the Senate's farm bill," Raun said. "We deeply appreciate those rice-state senators who voted for the bill, as well all other senators who supported passage. Rice producers are well prepared to continue the hard work begun over two years ago by now helping to pass a House farm bill soon, which would enable the House and Senate to begin and finish their conference negotiations before the current farm act expires on September 30."
Rice-state Sens. Mark Pryor (D-AR), John Boozman (R-AR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), David Vitter (R-LA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) voted for the bill. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) voted no.
Both bills would authorize programs for five years, from 2014 to 2018, including commodity and risk management policies for the 2014 through 2018 crop years. In total, the House Agriculture Committee bill would cut spending by nearly $40 billion, including termination of direct payments to producers, like the Senate proposes. The Senate's bill would reduce total spending by $24 billion. The House committee's farm safety net would offer producers the choice of either price-loss coverage or revenue-loss coverage. S. 954 would change the farm safety net by providing an Adverse Market Payments policy for producers.
Like the Senate bill, the House committee legislation would consolidate conservation programs and retain export market development and food-aid programs. Both bills would reform the food stamp program, but the House would make more program changes and reduce spending significantly more than the Senate.
Yesterday's adoption of S. 954 marks the second year in a row the Senate has approved a bipartisan, budget-saving, five-year farm bill. Last year's Senate vote was 65-34. In 2012, the House did not take up its committee-passed farm bill. Earlier this year, Congress extended the 2008 farm act to Sept. 30, 2013, in the absence of a final compromise bill from the House and Senate and following expiration of the 2008 statute on Sept. 30, 2012.
Forty-six Democrats, 18 Republicans and two Independents voted for S. 954 yesterday, while two Democrats and 25 Republicans opposed the bill.
The Congressional Research Service has released a report that compares the policies and costs of the House and Senate committee bills.