Final farm bill compromise reached

Published on: Jan 27, 2014

The farm bill was filed with the House clerk Monday night and awaits action on the floor as soon as Wednesday ahead of an already planned GOP-retreat at the end of the week.

The bipartisan, bicameral agreement on the Agricultural Act of 2014 contains major reforms including eliminating the direct payment program, streamlining and consolidating numerous programs to improve their effectiveness and reduce duplication, and cutting down on program misuse.

Hill staff indicated the official Congressional Budget Office scores and a link to the conference report will be provided as soon as they become available.

All the four principals voiced praise for the ability to come together on an agreement and asked their colleagues to join them in support for the bill. Obtaining the needed 218 votes in the House will prove yeoman's work for agricultural lobbyists Tuesday in a flurry of activity to get the bill across the finish line.

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) who saw his Democrat counterparts jump ship during the first farm bill vote on the floor last summer said he was pleased the four were able to work together and put partisanship aside to advance a five-year farm bill.

"Compromise is rare in Washington these days, but it's what is needed to actually get things done. While it's no secret that I do not support some of the final bill's provisions, I believe my reservations are outweighed by the need to provide long term certainty for agriculture and nutrition programs," Peterson said. "This process has been going on far too long; I urge my colleagues to support this bill and the President to quickly sign it into law."

To meet the needs of different commodity regions, the commodity title offers a flexible farm safety net that includes a choice between price-based and revenue-based risk management tools and maintains the decoupling of payments under both programs from current planted acreage.

The bill includes a choice between a revenue program that covers both price and yield losses with county and farm level options, and a price support program which allows the optional purchase of insurance coverage under a Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO). The bill also eliminates controversial Direct Payments while maintaining decoupled farm support programs that will minimize the possibility of planting and production distortions that could trigger new WTO challenges. The language in Title 1 allows producers to choose between maintaining existing crop acreage base or reallocating their current base acreage to reflect average acres planted to covered commodities in 2009-2012.

On crop insurance, the bill makes enterprise units permanent, allows growers to purchase enterprise unit coverage for both irrigated and dryland crops, authorizes a new Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO), and will help to strengthen the next generation of agriculture by providing a 10% increase in premium support to beginning farmers and ranchers.

The bill does not include any change to the country-of-origin labeling rules or funding under the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Act (GIPSA), which caused major livestock groups to say they'll oppose the bill. (See related story.)

The bill does still include key livestock provisions, most notably $5 billion in livestock disaster provisions.  

The dairy deal also seems to meet the requirements of a compromise, which means no one is 100% happy, but in the end it's something everyone can live with, one lobbyist explained.