Today U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) voted against the Senate-version of the Farm Bill because it did not include adequate protections for southern farmers, nor did the bill protect farmers from multi-year price declines.
"Although the Senate's version of the Farm Bill includes a number of important reforms, the commodity section of lacks vital protection for southern farmers, especially rice and peanuts. I cannot support a Farm Bill that does not have a strong safety net for all crops and regions," Boozman said. "This nation has a diverse fabric of agriculture with a variety of risks, and we must write a Farm Bill that serves the country as a whole. As the process moves forward, I feel confident we can come to an agreement that creates an equitable safety net for all crops and regions."
The Senate-version of the Farm Bill replaces direct payments to producers with expanded crop insurance and a supplemental revenue program. However, crop insurance does not work for southern commodities in the same manner it does for producers in other regions. The safety net that it creates is geared to protecting producers of commodities in regions where yield risks are high. Many southern crops, including rice, do not fall into that category as they are heavily irrigated. As a result, the risk for southern producers is tilted heavily toward a collapse in commodity prices or increases in input costs, rather than on-farm yield fluctuation. If a commodity's price plummets while inputs like fertilizer or energy prices remain high, producers have no protection for the losses created by the high front-end costs.
When the Senate began debate on the Farm Bill earlier this month, Boozman took to the floor and said the new revenue plan designed to augment crop insurance "leaves gaping holes in the Southern Safety Net."
"Even with a reference price, this revenue plan may not be strong enough for our farmers to get operating loans. For example, most estimates find that Rice would lose as much as 70% of its baseline - far more than their fair share. However, this is not about just one crop. Every farmer in America knows the real threat of multi-year price declines, and we need a commodity title that treats all crops and regions fairly," Boozman said.
A Boozman-authored amendment requiring the Department of Agriculture to support the dissemination of objective, scholarly, and authoritative agricultural and food law research and information through partnerships with higher education institutions was included in the Senate-passed bill.
Boozman proposed a total of seven amendments to the Farm Bill and cosponsored others, including one that sought to address the inadequate safety net for southern producers. That amendment was not included among those considered on the floor.
Boozman's amendment to strengthen the ability of food banks to help the hungry by redirecting funds to them that are currently allocated to states as a bonus for administering the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the food stamp program) properly was not agreed to by the Senate.
The remaining amendments Boozman proposed were not accepted for consideration on the floor.
Those amendments were aimed at reducing the regulatory burden imposed on farmers and at curbing wasteful spending.
Ag-REINS Act Amendment: Provides expedited Congressional Review of major regulations that harm the interests of American farmers and food consumers, especially food insecure low-income families.
No REAP funds for Ethanol: Congress recently decided to let the corn ethanol production subsidy expire because it is clear that the industry is established and can stand on its own. Some corn supporters would like to use federal dollars to fund the establishment of blender pumps, to create a new artificial incentive for corn ethanol. If the market demands blender pumps, then the market will invest in the creation of blender pumps.
Farm, Ranch, and Forest Land Private Property Protection Act: Prohibits eminent domain abuse against farm, ranch, and forest lands, whereby the government confiscates the land and transfers it to another private party for private economic development. States and local governments that violate the act and fail to remedy the situation within a set period of time would be subject to the loss of federal economic development assistance for up to 2 years.
Rent-free right-of-way for water lines on federal lands: The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (as amended) indicates that rights-of-way shall be granted, without rental fees, for electric or telephone facilities. The Boozman amendment would extend those rent-free rights-of-way for water projects that are federally-financed.
USDA Attorney Fees Amendment: The Government Accountability Office has issued a report indicating widespread failure on the part of the Department of Agriculture to track attorney fees payments by the Department. This Amendment requires the Secretary of Agriculture, working in cooperation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury, to develop a system to track and report attorney fee payment information.
SeSenator Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) released the following statement about the Senate Farm Bill:
Agriculture in our country is an important economic force, but each region and industry has its own specific challenges. This farm bill fails to recognize the differences, and I'm concerned that its policies will undermine the stable, safe and affordable food supply we have come to expect in our country.
For example, the bill fails rice farmers by employing an unworkable crop insurance program. This plan wil