2012 FARM BILL SUMMARY OF KEY AMENDMENTS –
House Agriculture Committee
Markup: July 11-12, 2012
This amendment summary and compendium of related sign-on letters was prepared by the California Food and Justice Coalition and the Rural Coalition in cooperation with our partners in numerous organizations working to make the 2012 Farm Bill a real jobs bill, supportive of our nation’s diverse producers and rural communities, sustaining resources, and assuring access to nutritious food for all.
COMMODITY TITLE AMENDMENTS
Fortenberry – Payment Limits and Actively Engaged – SUPPORT
The draft committee bill increases the commodity payment limit by 250 percent above the already generous Senate-passed levels, and unlike the Senate-passed bill, leaves wide-open the current loopholes that allow mega-farms and absentee landowners to collect farm payments. This amendment would close loopholes in commodity programs, and tighten payment limits by limiting subsidies to $125,000 per person or entity per year ($250,000 for married couples).
CONSERVATION TITLE AMENDMENTS
Walz-Noem-Fortenberry – Sodsaver and Beginning Farmers – SUPPORT
This amendment would authorize a national Sodsaver provision and use the savings for deficit reduction and for reinvestment into beginning farmer training. The national Sodsaver provision would conserve critical natural and economic resources by reducing premium subsidies on native prairie acres that are planted to crops. Roughly half of the nearly $66 million in savings from the national national Sodsaver provision would be reinvested into the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, a successful competitive grants program to train the next generation of farmers. The rest of the savings would go to deficit reduction. (see also Research Title)
NUTRITION TITLE AMENDMENTS
McGovern – Baca – Pingree – Welch – Fudge – Sewell (HR 6083) – Amendment to Restore Cuts Made to SNAP – SUPPORT
The Committee Draft Bill includes $16.5 billion in cuts to SNAP. The CAT-EL provisions as written will cut 2 to 3 million people from SNAP entirely. The SUA provisions in the draft bill will result in 500,000 households losing an average of $90 a month in food purchases through SNAP. The cuts to the State Performance Fund will end a program that incentivizes states that have the best and most improved SNAP performance levels, including increasing outreach to eligible but non-participating people and reduced error rates in the state-run program. If not repealed, the impact of these cuts will be felt by millions of low-income people – seniors, working families and children. This amendment removes these immoral and hurtful cuts and restores these critical funds and benefits.
Fortenberry – Farmers’ Market Policy Provisions – SUPPORT
The Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) is USDA’s premier competitive grants program spurring economic growth through direct-marketing channels. This no cost amendment would prioritize capacity building, small and mid-sized farms, and underserved communities within FMLFPP. It would also raise the draft committee bill’s limit on administration funds from 3 to 5 percent (currently USDA uses about 7.5 percent).
Ellmers – Pingree – Gibson – Amendment to Allow Local Control in Farm to School Purchases – SUPPORT
This no-cost amendment would give more control to the States and local communities by authorizing schools with low annual commodity entitlement values (small rural schools) to start making their own food purchases, provided USDA determines this would yield reduced administrative costs. The amendment would also create demonstration projects in at least 10 schools to test alternative farm to school procurement models to USDA food distribution.
Johnson – Amendment to Provide Community Food Incentives – SUPPORT
The Amendment adds a provision to the Community Food Projects program providing authority for the funding of incentive programs low -income households for the purchase of local fruits and vegetables.
Pingree CSA Amendment Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and SNAP SUPPORT
Interest in participating in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares is growing among SNAP participants, but unfortunately the current process is overly cumbersome for SNAP beneficiaries and farms. Farms that wish to accept SNAP participants in CSAs, must agree to waive the typical requirement of paying in advance for months of fresh produce, and instead deliver food within two weeks of receiving payment. For this reason, many smaller farms that wish to serve the SNAP community choose not to participate. Congresswoman Pingree’s amendment would give USDA the authority to allow SNAP benefits to go toward the upfront cost of CSAs. The amendment allows USDA to retain the ability to certify CSAs for participation in the program. The amendment also retains the prohibition that exists in current law from using SNAP benefits to pay for administrative or membership fees in CSAs.
CREDIT TITLE AMENDMENTS
Fudge-Fortenberry – Amendment to Provide Microloans to Beginning and Veteran Producers – SUPPORT
Young, beginning, and veteran farmers face obstacles when trying to secure loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. This amendment would allow FSA to make small loans of up to $35,000 to meet the unique needs of those producers, streamline the application process, and provide discretionary authority to FSA to establish intermediary lender pilot projects.
Fudge – Amendment to Remove Residential Restrictions on Farm Service Agency Youth Loans – SUPPORT
Currently, USDA Youth Operating Loans are only available to youth who live in rural areas (areas with 50,000 or less residents). USDA’s Farm Service Agency loans, a comparable program for our nation’s farmers and ranchers over the age of 20 years old, are available to ALL agriculture producers, whether they live in rural, suburban or urban areas. Youth loans should not operate under a different standard. This arbitrary and unfair limitation denies millions of urban and suburban children from receiving necessary loans for farming projects, and the countless benefits associated with farming and gardening. Our nation’s youth should not be discriminated against based on where they live. The amendment would not impose any additional costs to the federal budget, and would lift a technical, and unnecessary, limitation on Youth Operating Loans. Expanding access to Youth Operating Loans to ALL youth, without regards to where they live, is a simple and important step that we should take to promote access to farming and gardening projects for ALL of America’s youth.
RURAL DEVELOPMENT AMENDMENTS
Sewell – Amendment to Provide Authority to Prioritize Locally Driven Strategic Economic and Community Development Projects – SUPPORT
The Amendment allows USDA Rural Development to give priority to applications that are otherwise eligible and support strategic community and economic development plans on a multijurisdictional basis. The lack of sufficient and coordinated infrastructure development and capital are two critical obstacles to economic development and competitiveness in small town and rural America. USDA’s broad range of Rural Development programs can be made more effective by focusing scare grant and loan resources on local priorities that demonstrate broad support from multiple stakeholders. Rural people, businesses and communities are increasingly operating in dynamic regional economies and USDA Rural Development programs must be reshaped to a more locally driven, strategic regional approach. Current funding decisions are made based on what federal officials deem the best grant writing, because the agency is not authorized to prioritize strategic, locally supported projects with the best possibility for job creation. This amendment offers a unique opportunity to authorize USDA to be more innovative and focus on ensuring that federal dollar gets stretched farther and that rural localities and regions, not Washington, drive Rural Development funding decisions.
Pingree – Amendment to Remove the Cap on Business and Industry Loans – SUPPORT
The Business and Industry (B&I) loan program includes a focus on renewing the infrastructure for local and regional food systems. This no-cost amendment would remove the cap in the mark for local and regional enterprise loan guarantees. The amendment would make other technical improvements to B&I Loans and would authorize local and regional food systems as a specific authority in Rural Business Opportunity Grants.
McIntyre – Amendment to Reinstate Mandatory Funding ($50 million) for USDA-Rural Development Water/Wastewater Backlog – SUPPORT
The 2002 farm bill provided $360 million in funding to address the water and wastewater backlog and the 2008 farm bill included $120 million for the same purpose. Investments in water and waste water systems enhance the economic and public health of entire communities and by doing so, increase their quality of life. With a current USDA backlog of over $3.2 billion in applications, many communities’ economic growth is paralyzed due to inadequate drinking and wastewater treatment and capacity limitations. Over 92% of the country’s 52,000 community water systems serve fewer than 10,000 people. But due to their limited tax and customer base, small and rural communities often have a difficult time providing safe and affordable water. In many situations, homebuilding, businesses, and institutions cannot expand or locate in an area without adequate water and sewer service. The 2012 House farm bill did not include funding. The McIntyre amendment would provide $50 million (about $142 million in program dollars).
McIntyre – Amendment to Reauthorize the Northern Border Regional Commission and Southeast Crescent Regional Commission – SUPPORT
The House draft farm bill reauthorizes only the Delta Regional Authority and Great Plains Regional Commission, but does not reauthorize the Northern Border Regional Commission and Southeast Crescent Regional Commission. The Amendment would also reauthorize the other two Commissions.
RESEARCH AND EXTENSION AMENDMENTS
Fortenberry – Walz – Amendment to Support Beginning Producer Training – SUPPORT
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program provides training and technical assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers through competitive grants to land-grant institutions, community organizations, and other farm organizations. This amendment would establish a grant priority on agricultural rehabilitation programs that serve veteran-farmers, and would restore critical matching funds provisions within the program that foster partnerships with community-based organizations that work directly with farmers.
Walz-Noem-Fortenberry – Amendment to Authorize a National Sodsaver Provision and Expand Support for Beginning Farmers – SUPPORT
This amendment would authorize a national Sodsaver provision and use the savings for deficit reduction and for reinvestment into beginning farmer training. The national Sodsaver provision would conserve critical natural and economic resources by reducing premium subsidies on native prairie acres that are planted to crops. Roughly half of the nearly $66 million in savings from the national national Sodsaver provision would be reinvested into the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, a successful competitive grants program to train the next generation of farmers. The rest of the savings would go to deficit reduction.
Baca – Amendment to Establish New Grant Programs for Farmworkers at Hispanic Serving Agricultural Colleges and Universities – SUPPORT
The amendment authorizes a $40 million competitive grants program to train farmworkers and other Hispanic youth working in agriculture related fields for jobs requiring skills in new agriculture food science, bio-energy and environmental science and a $5 million special scholarship program for Hispanic youth whose families are employed in agriculture and food processing who demonstrate an interest a career in the agriculture or food science industry.
Baca- Sense of Congress Amendment on Following Age requirements established by the International Labor Organization – SUPPORT
The Amendment recognizes the importance of the values children learn by working on their family farms and ranchers, and urges the United States to follow the standard age requirements for child labor that have been ratified by the United Nations International Labor Organization.
Sewell – Amendment to Require A Report on Specialty Crop Production by Certain Farmers – SUPPORT
This amendment would require USDA to conduct a study on specialty crop production by small, women, minority, and socially disadvantaged farmers, who are significantly represented in specialty crop production. The amendment would also require USDA to assess the public and private sector tools available to help expand, improve, and add value to the agricultural operations of these producers. Data is a critical first step in bolstering production for these sectors of agriculture.
CROP INSURANCE AMENDMENTS
McIntyre – Walz – Amendment to Increase Whole Farm Revenue Insurance Liability Limit – SUPPORT
Currently there is not a risk management tool available on a nationwide basis for diversified farms, including specialty crops and mixed grain/livestock or dairy operations. The draft committee bill includes a Whole Farm Risk Management Insurance product to start to address this issue, but with a limit that makes it unappealing for many of the producers the product is designed to serve. This amendment would increase the per farm liability limit from $1 million to $1.5 million in the Whole Farm Risk Management Insurance product to make it relevant to more farmers.
Welch –Organic Crop Insurance Price Elections Amendment – SUPPORT
Crop insurance is a critical part of the new farm safety net, but it does not work for organic farmers. Organic farmers pay a higher premium yet USDA does not pay organic farmers at the organic price after a loss for all but four crops. This added cost for less payout is one of the major reasons that organic farmers cite for not purchasing crop insurance. This amendment would direct USDA’s Risk Management Agency to complete the development of the organic price series.
MISCELLANEOUS TITLE AMENDMENTS
Gibson – Boswell – Amendment to Establish a Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison – SUPPORT
This amendment would establish a position within USDA to assist returning veterans in accessing agricultural vocational and rehabilitation programs and to advocate on their behalf within the
Department. This provision would ensure that veterans are knowledgeable about existing USDA programs they are eligible for so they are able to benefit from them. This position would also be empowered to work with Veterans Affairs to coordinate veteran benefits with enrolling in agricultural training programs.
Pingree – Food Safety Technical Assistance to Small Livestock Producers – SUPPORT
This amendment to the Miscellaneous Title of the bill would direct FSIS to (a) provide food safety technical assistance to small-scale livestock and poultry processing and slaughter establishments, (b) establish an electronic option for submitting meat and poultry labels for pre-approval and to develop a guidebook with user-friendly information on the label process, and (c) make recommendations to Congress on additional actions to assist small-scale processing facilities. The amendment would also establish a grant program at USDA Rural Development to assist small-scale facilities make adjustments to their facilities, processes, and operations to meet food safety regulatory standards.
Conaway- Costa Amendment to undo 2008 Farm Bill protection for Livestock and Poultry farmers and repeal compromise regulation – OPPOSE
This amendment would not only repeal important livestock and poultry protections in the last farm bill, but also undo compromise GIPSA regulations finalized in 2011.