House Ag Committee finalizes farm bill

 

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In 48 hours the House Agriculture Committee did what many didn't think was possible in approving its farm bill recommendations. It brokered a deal on country-of-origin labeling, found more money for fruit and vegetable growers ($1.8 billion in new money) and most importantly got the blessing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Initial reaction from farm groups is positive. But the question is whether it can withstand a fight on the House floor as Wisconsin's Ron Kind is still looking for ways to find greater reform in the bill.

The House Agriculture Committee unanimously approved its bill after debating it July 17-19. Here are key highlights of the bill.

Important highlights of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2419) include:

  • Farmers have a choice between traditional price protection and a new market-oriented revenue coverage.
  • Stronger payment limits: People making more than $1 million a year (adjusted gross income) can't collect conservation and farm program payments and closing loopholes that allow people to avoid payment limits by receiving money through multiple business units.
  • 1.6 billion for fruit and vegetable industry: A new section for Horticulture and Organic Agriculture includes nutrition, research, pest management and trade promotion programs.
  • Rebalancing loan rates and target prices among commodities: Soybeans target price was increased to $6.10/bu., up from the current level of $5.80/bu. The wheat target price was raised to $4.15 from $3.92 and the loan rate increased to $2.94.

Behind closed doors, National Farmers Union President Tom Buis and a lobbyist for livestock groups worked with Committee Chairman Collin Peterson and ranking Bob Goodlatte on reaching an agreement on country-of-origin labeling. It includes three categories of labeling, one that indicates product was born, raised and slaughtered in the United States; one that indicates that product was not exclusively born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S.; and one that includes products entirely from other countries. For ground meat, products can be labeled with a list of countries where product may have originated.

During the Committee's business meeting, the Agriculture Committee considered H.R. 2419 and an "en bloc" amendment that included additional important programs that the Committee wants to include in the Farm Bill but that require additional funding.

Now the bill heads to the House floor, possibly as soon as this week.

Copies of the bill considered by the Committee and the amendments that were adopted are available on the Committee's Web site.

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