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New farm bill set to be Senate priority item

Feb. 7, 2013 | 0 comments

Last week farm leaders praised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for saying that he was committed to making a new farm bill a priority in the new session of Congress.

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said it was a positive way to begin the year and Congressional session.

He thanked the Senate leadership for its commitment to U.S. agriculture and looked forward to the continued support of Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chair of the Senate's Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, who has pledged to hold a committee markup of the bill as soon as possible.

"Farmers and ranchers are in need of certainty through a five-year farm bill," Johnson said.

"NFU urges Speaker of the House John Boehner to make the same commitment to rural America so that we do not prolong this process much longer."

Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation was also happy to hear that Reid had put completion of a new farm bill near the top of the Congressional to-do list.

"This is good news for America's dairy farmers who need leaders in the Senate and House to renew their push this year for a better farm bill," he said.

Kozak's organization had pushed for significant dairy policy reforms both in a separate bill and then in the farm bill last year - neither of which were passed. The Congressional proposals were largely based on a plan hammered out by NMPF several years earlier.

Kozak still believes that those measures will give dairy farmers a better safety net while reducing costs to the federal government at a time when Congress is searching for ways to trim federal spending.

"Sen. Reid introduced the 2013 farm bill as S. 10, making it part of a short list of priority pieces of legislation for action in the Senate," said Kozak. "Reid's decision recognizes that the dairy policy reforms contained in the bill, along with other provisions in the measure, passed with overwhelming, bi-partisan support last summer."

Kozak said his group, made up of the nation's dairy cooperatives and their members, will continue its bi-partisan efforts in both the Senate and House to get a five-year farm bill passed that "provides our producers the security and stability they need."

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau was also pleased that Reid had re-introduced the Senate's version of the farm bill for another try this year.

"We are also encouraged to hear that Sen. Reid is making the farm bill one of several privileged, top priority legislative actions this year," said Stallman.

"This represents real hope for farmers and ranchers that the Senate, like last session, will aggressively move forward on a long-term farm bill to give farmers the risk-management certainty we need."

Stallman noted that it is going to take real bi-partisan cooperation to get the farm bill to the finish line, and he said he's confident the House Agriculture Committee will craft a compatible bill and he's encouraged that the process is starting early.

"We are hopeful that Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Stabenow and the committee's new ranking member, Sen. Thad Cochran will work quickly to build on the bi-partisan work that was the hallmark of the Senate farm bill last year.

"We encourage House Speaker Boehner and other members of the House to follow the example set last year by House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas and ranking member Collin Peterson in their actions to pass a bi-partisan farm bill that worked for all Americans out of their committee.

Stallman said America's farmers deserve the policy certainty that a five-year farm bill would provide.

"We need a flexible, reform-minded bill that draws its key risk management tools from crop insurance provisions."

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