Senate Ag committee passes farm bill
The Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday passed its version of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 that would cut $23 billion from agricultural programs by eliminating direct subsidy payments to farmers, consolidating programs and cracking down on food assistance abuse.
Unlike the last farm bill, this one includes no separate title that addresses issues specific to the livestock industry.
National Meat Association CEO Barry Carpenter said he was pleased the bill focused on the issues important to the meat industry without the need for a separate livestock title.
In terms of international trade promotion, the bill extends for five years both the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program.
“We are pleased that they reauthorized the market access program and foreign market development programs at current levels, which are $200 million and $34.5 million,” American Meat Institute Vice President for Legislative Affairs Dale Nellor said in an email.
The bill also includes an amendment by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) calling on the USDA to study reorganizing its international trade functions and consider establishing the position of under secretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs.
Carpenter said he supports that amendment, given the growing importance of the export market for U.S. meat products.
Another amendment by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (D-Iowa) aimed at protecting hog farmers should foreign markets close.
The amendment calls for a study on setting up catastrophic risk-management insurance for pork producers to cover input costs lost because of an animal disease or other event that stops exports of U.S. pork.
R.C. Hunt, a pork producer from Wilson, N.C., and president of the National Pork Producers Council, applauded the amendment. “The increased presence of disease, along with increasing international travel and trade that move diseases around the world, have created an unprecedented risk to the U.S. pork industry. Producers need risk-management tools that can protect them should our export markets close,” he said in a statement.
The American Veterinary Medical Association applauded the inclusion of several veterinary-related provisions in the Senate committee version of the farm bill, including those that would:
- Maintain the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program
- Maintain funding for the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank
- Maintain funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Institute
- Maintain the Animal Health and Disease Research program
- Establish a foundation for food and agriculture research.
- Establish the Veterinary Services Grant program to meet veterinary workforce or food protection needs in designated areas
- Establish a Wildlife Reservoir Zoonotic Disease Initiative
The bill must now be considered by the full Senate, then reconciled with a House version of the bill, which must be passed by the House Agriculture Committee and the full House.
To read the entire bill, click here.