On July 11, the House Committee on Agriculture approved a bipartisan
2012 Farm Bill on a vote of 35 to 11 following a marathon mark up in which
approximately 100 amendments were filed to the bill. The House version of the Farm Bill, H.R.
6083, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012 (FARRM),
reflects a serious effort to reduce overall spending associated with
agriculture-related and nutrition programs and sets up some major issues,
including crop insurance and benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program (SNAP/formerly food stamps), to be addressed with the Senate
during eventual conference negotiations toward a final bill.
In introducing the House version of the Farm Bill,
Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) noted that the bill is
bipartisan and that his work with his Ranking Member, Rep. Collin Peterson
(D-MN) has "resulted in a reform-minded, fiscally responsible policy that is
equitable for farmers and ranchers in all regions and will lead to improved
program delivery.” Rep. Peterson
characterized the bill as putting Congress a step closer to "complet[ing] work
on the 2012 Farm Bill before the current bill expires” on September 30. Rep. Peterson called on the House leadership
to take up the bill for debate by the full House of Representatives before the
August recess so the House and Senate can conference a final bill in September.
The Chairman and Ranking Member highlighted that the House
- Saves more than $35 billion in mandatory
funding, with nearly half of the savings associated with changes/reforms in the
- Repeals or consolidates more than 100 programs
Eliminates direct payments and countercyclical
payments to farmers for commodity losses, as does the Senate bill, and makes
changes to commodity policy that would save more than $14 billion;
- Consolidates conservation programs, going from
23 programs to 13 for savings of about $6 billion; and
- Makes changes to reduce the federal regulatory
burdens on farmers, ranchers, and rural communities.
According to preliminary estimates by the Congressional
Budget Office (CBO), the House version of the Farm Bill would reduce federal direct
spending by an estimated $35.1 billion over ten years from current law
projections. This bill governs spending
on entitlement and mandatory programs that are not subject to annual
appropriations action by Congress. It
also authorizes appropriations for programs, such as the research and extension
programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which Congress must fund
each year in the appropriations bills.
The Committee adopts
reforms to nutrition entitlement programs, including significant changes to the
SNAP program, for net savings of nearly $16.1 billion over ten years. During Committee consideration of the bill,
amendments to reverse the SNAP program cuts and to scale them back to $4.5
billion, the amount approved in the Senate version of the bill, were defeated.
As does the Senate bill, the House bill achieves additional deficit
reduction by eliminating direct and countercyclical payments and related
payments for major commodity programs, such as wheat, corn, soybeans, etc. These provisions save $14 billion over ten
years. The Committee bill also includes
provisions to streamline and reform commodity policy. CBO estimates net savings from the commodity
programs at $23.6 billion over ten years.
The Senate bill saved $19.8 billion over ten years. The House bill continues crop insurance with
a goal of improving coverage for producers of all crops in all regions.
As does the Senate bill, the House bill proposes to
eliminate duplication and consolidate federal programs, such as conservation
programs. The House bill would save nearly
$6.1 billion over ten years from proposed changes in conservation programs.
For the USDA research and extension programs, the House bill
would largely extend current programs; however given current budget
constraints, the Committee reduces existing authorization levels (not actual
spending) by an estimated $500 million, and includes specific authorized
funding levels for programs with open-ended ("such sums as may be necessary”)
authorizations. The House Committee also removes USDA’s authority to fund non-competitive
The most controversial provision in the research title of
the bill is a requirement for USDA to institute a 1:1 match for applied research
grants that are commodity-specific or State-specific. While there is waiver authority for the
Secretary of Agriculture should such research be determined "a national
priority,” there is significant concern over the requirement to match federal
funding on a dollar-for-dollar basis. An
amendment was offered by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) to strike this provision
(Section 7127) from the bill. After
discussion and assurances by the Chairman and Ranking Member that they will
work with Committee Members, affected stakeholders, and USDA to craft a
consensus that could be included in the final bill, the amendment was
The House bill would extend the authorization for intramural
research through the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) through FY 2017. It would also reauthorize the National
Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through FY 2017 and extend the
authorization for NIFA’s extramural competitive grants program, the Agriculture
and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), at the current $700 million annual level
(AFRI is funded at $264.5 million in FY 2012).
The bill would also reauthorize funding for the Extension Service and
extends authority for the Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) program.
The House Committee continues mandatory funding, as well as
authorizes additional appropriations if Congress so chooses, for Specialty Crop
Research, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension, and Beginning Farmer and
Rancher Development. CBO estimates
mandatory spending for research, extension, and related matters in the House
bill at $546 million over ten years. The
House broadens eligibility for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development grants
to military veterans, providing a set-aside of not more than five percent for
Also within the research title, as did the Senate, the House
bill would establish a new program to recruit, train, support, and retain
veterinarians. The bill authorizes $10
million for each fiscal year beginning in FY 2013.
The House version of the Farm Bill has no provisions
affecting the current formula grant programs for land-grant institutions. Formula programs authorized under the Hatch
Act and Smith-Lever Act have open-ended authorizations for appropriations at
"such sums as may be necessary.”
The House bill does not address the indirect cost rate as
the 2008 Farm Bill did. Thus, under the proposed
House bill, the indirect cost rate remains at the current level of 30 percent established
in the FY 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill.
The House and Senate versions of the FY 2013 Agriculture, Rural
Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations
bill currently pending before Congress would extend the 30 percent indirect
cost rate for another year. The 2008
Farm Bill increased the indirect cost rate from 19 percent to 22 percent.
The House bill does not include provisions that would
establish a non-profit Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) to
promote a public-private partnership to leverage additional funding for
agriculture research. The Senate bill
includes language to create FFAR with mandatory funding of $100 million toward
this effort, which must be matched by non-federal funding through the
The House Farm Bill would extend existing energy programs
affecting rural areas for five years through FY 2017, including the Biomass
Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), which would be authorized at $20
million annually. In a significant
departure from the Senate bill, the House provides that these energy programs
are subject to funding by Congress through the annual appropriations
bills. The Senate bill provides nearly
$800 million in mandatory spending to continue existing energy programs, which
would require no further action by the Congress.
Following the completion of the House committee markup,
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack issued a statement that took issue with the recommended
deep cuts in the SNAP program and with "misguided” reductions to energy and
conservation programs. The Secretary
indicated that the Administration would work with Congress during the
legislative process to achieve a Farm Bill that is consistent with the
President’s budget and policies.
To view the text of the House Committee-approved bill, a
summary of its provisions, and a section-by-section description of the bill,
please see http://agriculture.house.gov/singlepages.aspx?NewsID=1227&LSBID=1271.