Mr. LUCAS. Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks on the bill, H.R. 1947.
Mr. LUCAS. Madam Chair, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I rise today in strong support of H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013.
This bipartisan bill is 4 years in the making, and I could not have had a better partner than my friend from Minnesota (Mr. Peterson).
He began this process 4 years ago when he led us into the countryside to have eight field hearings across this great Nation. We followed up those field hearings with a series of 11 audit hearings on every single policy under the jurisdiction of the House Committee on Agriculture.
In all, we held 40 hearings on every aspect of this FARRM Bill. The result is legislation that calls for reduced spending, smaller government, and commonsense reform.
The committee has held two markups of this essential bill, the first, last Congress, and one last month. Both of those markups lasted for more than 12 hours each. We considered over 200 amendments in total. In the end, we achieved a large bipartisan margin of support. The vote tally this year was 36-10, with 23 out of 25 Republicans and 13 out of 21 Democrats supporting it.
Some of my colleagues were amazed by the duration of the markup; but I came to Congress to legislate, and an important part of the legislative process is an open and fair debate. The Speaker shares that sentiment, and I hope during the debate of the amendments to the FARRM Act, we'll let the body work its will, then we'll vote for final passage.
The FARRM Act is different for many reasons. There is a reason that we put reform in the title. This is the most reform-minded bill in decades. It repeals outdated policies, while reforming, streamlining, and consolidating over 100 government programs.
It reforms the SNAP Act, also known as the food stamp program, for the first time since the welfare reforms of 1996; and it makes tremendous reforms to the farm programs.
The Agriculture Committee and the agriculture community have voluntarily worked together to make these reforms and to contribute to deficit reduction. Every part of this bill is a part of the solution to Washington's spending problems. We save the American taxpayer nearly $40 billion, which is almost seven times the amount of cuts to these programs under sequestration.
Regarding reforms to traditional farm programs, first of all, we eliminate direct payments. They cost taxpayers $5 billion a year. They were payments that people received every year, regardless of the market conditions and whether or not they farmed.
Instead, we take a more market-oriented approach to policy, where there is no support when market prices are high. We encourage responsible risk management where farmers are able to plan for catastrophic events.
In addition to eliminating direct payments, we repeal the ACRE Act, the disaster program for crops, and the countercyclical program. My philosophy from the beginning of the FARRM Bill process has been that these programs had to be based on market economies. They had to work for [Page: H3722]
all crops in all regions of the country. Our bill achieves this, while also saving $23 billion, which is a record 36 percent spending reduction.
In conservation, a subject near and dear to my heart, we streamline the delivery of these incredibly important programs. During our hearings, we learned that conservation programs had grown in number and complication, often acting as a deterrent for the adoption of these voluntary, incentive-based programs. Therefore, the FARRM Act eliminates and consolidates 23 duplicative and overlapping programs into 13, which saves nearly $7 billion.
We authorize and strengthen and fully pay for livestock disaster assistance that is incredibly important to our livestock producers during devastating droughts, such as the ones we're experiencing recently.
The bill invests in core specialty crop initiatives like Specialty Block Grants, Plant Pest and Disease Management programs; and the FARRM Act also maintains our investment in agricultural research.
You know, my friends, I've had a lot of my colleagues ask me, Frank, why do you get so excited about these issues? Why do you get so stirred up? You're usually a pretty calm, laid-back fellow.
Well, let me tell you, I come from a part of the country that was the abyss of the Great Depression and the drought of the 1930s. Some of you may have seen Mr. Burns' documentary about the Dust Bowl. Those are my constituents. Those were my relatives in Roger Mills County, as well as the panhandle.
I was raised by a generation, my grandparents, who were young men and women during the Great Depression, who lived through that drought. They were scarred forever.
My maternal grandfather cosigned my first farm lease, cosigned my note at the bank so that I could start farming. But he was convinced, till the day he died, just as my other grandfather was, the Great Depression was coming back; it was coming back.
My parents were young men and women in the fifties, and they went through the drought of the fifties, far worse than the drought of the thirties. To the day he died, my father was convinced that it would never rain again.
And I came home from college in 1982 just in time to observe the collapse in agricultural land prices. I was raised by the generation that suffered through the thirties and the fifties.
I came home to watch the Vietnam generation be destroyed, farmers be destroyed by things beyond their control in the early 1980s. That's why I get so worked up on this policy.
The misery of the thirties, the misery of the eighties, economically, was not an accident. It was policy mistakes in the twenties and thirties that led to that agony. It was policy mistakes in the seventies and eighties that led to that agony.
Now, you say, Frank, you're excited, you're getting worked up. Look at the 1930 census for Roger Mills County. There were 14,000 people living in my home county. By the 1940 census there were 7,000 people living in my home county. And we've just now made it back to the mid-3,000s.
You don't have that kind of economic devastation, depopulation, suffering by accident. And that's why I'm here; that's why I'm working with my colleague, the ranking member, Mr. Peterson. That's why I've worked with Republicans, Democrats alike for years now to get to this point. That's why I want to work with all of you.
I cannot make it rain. There may be people in this town who say they can make it rain, but I cannot make it rain. But in my tenure as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, I can make sure we pass a comprehensive FARRM Bill that does not repeat the mistakes of the 1920s and -30s, does not repeat the mistakes of the 1970s and -80s.
I will not be a part of inflicting on future generations what was inflicted on what I call that generation of Vietnam veterans who came home to farm and, instead, went to the bankruptcy auctions, or my grandparents' generation, whose young men and women were wiped out in the 1930s. I will not be a part of that.
So I will work with all of you to try and improve this draft that attempts to produce a safety net that is workable, that is efficient, both for rural America and producers, but also for consumers.
I ask you to work with me in that regard. I ask you to do the right thing. I ask you to avoid the mistakes of the past. I ask you to look at the language, to study the language, and be good, responsible legislators.
Madam Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. PETERSON. Madam Chair, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I want to associate myself with the comments of the chairman, who, by the way, has done an outstanding job putting this bill together. And with the exception of maybe some differences on the SNAP title of the bill, I have to say that if I was still chairman, I wouldn't have a bill that's much different than what the chairman and I have put together. And maybe one of the reasons for that is that my family has a similar background to Mr. Lucas' family. My grandfather went through the Depression.
My father almost got bankrupted by Ezra Taft Benson and some of the nonsense that went on during that period of time. So the chairman is right. Policy makes a big difference in agriculture, and I stand with him in never going back to a time where we don't give our farmers and ranchers the safety net they need to operate in a very risky and now capital intensive business.
So today we're debating a new 5-year farm bill. As the chairman said, the process has gone on long enough. We started the debate on this when I was still chairman, and it's time for us to pass a bill.
This farm bill gives farmers and ranchers the necessary tools to provide American consumers with the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world. The bill includes farm, conservation, trade, nutrition, credit, rural development, research, forestry, energy and specialty crop programs.
With roughly 16 million American jobs tied to agriculture, the farm bill is a jobs bill. The rural economy remained strong during our Nation's financial crisis, and in my part of the world it was agriculture that kind of kept us going through that process. This is why the farm bill is so important. Failing to pass a new 5-year farm bill could potentially devastate our rural economy. Why would we jeopardize the one part of our economy that has been, and continues to be, working?
I often tell people that the Agriculture Committee is probably the least partisan of all the committees in Congress. And that doesn't happen by accident. We listen to each other, we try to understand each other, work together, and at the end of the day, have the best interests of our constituents in mind.
The bill before us today is a compromise that reflects that tradition. It's a compromise between commodities and regions, urban and rural Members. I didn't get everything I wanted; Chairman Lucas didn't get everything he wanted, but that's how the legislative process is supposed to work.
The bill makes major reforms to farm programs. Repealing direct payments saves taxpayers nearly $40 billion a year, and it ensures that farmers won't get a government subsidy for doing nothing. Instead, producers are given the choice between two countercyclical farm safety programs, addressing either price declines or revenue losses, which only support farmers during difficult times. The bill also sets new income requirements so individual millionaires won't receive farm payments and continues
the no-cost sugar program.
H.R. 1947 also makes significant reforms to dairy programs, the result of more than 4 years of work that we've done on the committee and compromise within the dairy industry. The new dairy safety net will address the volatility of the dairy market, help consumers by making all milk prices more stable and hopefully eliminate the price spikes that have been normal in today's marketplace.
The 2008 farm bill was the first farm bill to address the growing demand for fresh fruits and vegetables, local foods and organics. The 2013 FARRM Bill [Page: H3723]
continues this investment by increasing funding for specialty crop block grants, providing support for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion programs and authorizing the very first organic check-off for research and promotion.
We also recognize the challenges facing many beginning farmers by including support for outreach and education to beginning, socially disadvantaged and military veteran farmers and ranchers. The bill also streamlines and reforms current conservation programs, better targeting resources to allow farmers and ranchers to continue to preserve our valuable natural resources.
Now, a lot of attention has been given to the bill's cuts to nutrition programs, more than $20 billion over 10 years in this bill. Personally, I would have preferred that we updated the income and asset limits in the current SNAP program so that we would have treated everybody in the country the same. We've looked at that, we weren't able to come to consensus, so we didn't move in that direction.
So we have cuts to nutrition spending in this bill, and they've received most of the attention in this regard, but we also like to point out that there's additional support for TEFAP, increased funding for Community Food Projects with a focus on low-income communities, and it provides more resources to help USDA's anti-trafficking efforts.
So, while I think it's ridiculous to cut hundreds of billions of dollars out of nutrition programs, as some Members have called for, I also don't think it's realistic to say that we can't cut one penny from these programs because clearly there isn't a government program that couldn't stand some reductions. So I think what we've done here at the end of the day is responsible reform that's a middle ground that will allow us to
continue and to complete the work on this bill.
So I know we're going to have a lot of amendments I guess starting tomorrow, but it's my opinion, and it's the chairman's opinion, that in order for us to get a bill conferenced, we need to go through this process and stick together on the committee so we can have a bill that can be conferenced and get this bill signed before September 30 when the current law expires.
We need to keep this a bipartisan bill and not stray too far from what was approved in committee. I know that compromise is rare around here, but it's what is needed to finally get a new 5-year farm bill completed, and that is our objective.
So, Madam Chair, I reserve the balance of my time and yield back.
Mr. COSTA. Madam Chairman, I rise today to highlight the important and positive reforms in this year's FARRM Bill, that includes the Dairy subtitle, as we try to improve and save money for the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, otherwise known as the 2013 FARRM Bill.
I first want to thank Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson for the terrific work that they've done in cobbling together this bipartisan effort. It's never easy.
I can tell you as a grandson of two generations of dairy farmers in California that what American farmers do every day is work as hard as they possibly can to provide the highest value food quality at the most cost-effective level to American consumers, and they've been doing it for generations.
The Dairy Security Act of this bill is the result of 4 years of hard work and compromise by dairy producers and other members of the dairy industry across the country. This program is intended to provide a strong, market-based safety net that will keep dairy producers afloat while providing stable consumer prices.
The dairy industry--and producers especially--has been a victim in recent years because of dramatic price volatility, and so have the consumers. At the same time, producers have been forced to deal with feed costs that have skyrocketed from $2 a bushel to $7 a bushel, and that has had a dramatic impact.
Dairy producers across the country have seen their overhead increase as their profits have remained stagnant. Current Federal dairy policy continues to foster outdated support programs which no longer provide a meaningful safety net or ensure any stability for our dairy farmers or our consumers.
In California, my home State, the leading dairy State in the Nation, we have lost 100 dairies as a result of bankruptcy in the last 18 months. Something needs to be done. We need to fix this broken system.
This title provides stability to the producers and benefits the consumers as well. It is time to bring meaningful reform, and this measure does this.
I ask my colleagues to support this effort as we move along this bipartisan compromise.
Mr. AUSTIN SCOTT of Georgia. Madam Chairman, I rise today in support of this FARRM Bill. I, along with many others in this room, have worked on drafting a farm bill that meets the needs of our agricultural producers and consumers.
We've taken part in audit hearings and met with producers, grocers, and consumers. We've debated agricultural policy through two midnight-hour markups on a bill that should pass every 5 years. Through all of this, I have gained knowledge of many unnecessary programs and the fraud and abuse that plagues these programs. I also have a newfound appreciation for the FARRM Bill and its value to American citizens.
My granddad always said the farm bill is for when times are bad, not when they are good.
Several of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have reasons to vote against the bill. Some say it cuts too much. For others, it doesn't cut enough. Let me be clear. This bill is a good step in the right direction. It will reduce Federal spending. It reduces the fraud, abuse, and waste in many of the government programs that are in the government today.
I would like to share a few facts with you. If we don't pass this bill:
$40 billion is the amount of money that will be spent on outdated commodity programs that we have cut out of this bill;
11 million is the number of additional acres in conservation programs that would receive a government program that we have cut out of this bill.
We have also reduced SNAP payments for about 2 million people who should not qualify for them anyway.
Some of the reforms to the nutrition title include:
Restrictions in the use of the LIHEAP program;
Eliminating lottery winners from qualifying for SNAP benefits;
And eliminating State performance bonuses and advertising for the program.
As my friend from Texas (Mr. Conaway) has asked: ``Is this a legislative moment or a theater moment?''
Madam Chair, I submit that this is a true legislative moment. During this time, we need to act on the facts. Farmers and families need the certainty of long-term agricultural policies so they can continue to be the cornerstone of our Nation.
I urge my colleagues to support this bill.
Mr. CUELLAR. Madam Chairman, I rise in support of the importance of passing the new 5-year farm bill into law.
I first want to thank Chairman Lucas for all the good work that he has done, and my ranking member, Mr. Peterson--I still call him my ranking member, Mr. Peterson--for all the work that he and the other members of the Agriculture Committee, in a bipartisan way, have done, including the staff that worked so hard to make sure that we get this farm bill done.
As you know, we did pass an extension, which was not the right thing to do, but we did an extension. We need to provide some sort of continuity with a 5-year program. As you know, this is something that needs to be done in a bipartisan way, and this is what the committee has done after having numerous bill hearings, after making some changes that provide some reform, reform that will save the taxpayers over $40 billion in funding over the next 10 years through important reforms to our commodity,
conservation, and nutrition agencies.
I don't like the cuts to the nutrition, but I do understand this is a process. We have to get into a conference committee and work with the Senate. Therefore, I'm asking the Members to support the process and get this bill to where we can support it as bipartisan.
Mrs. BUSTOS. Thank you, Mr. Peterson.
As a member of the Agriculture Committee, it was an honor to be part of the farm bill markup last month. Unlike so much else in Washington, the markup was an exercise in bipartisanship. The entire committee was civil and accommodating toward one another. While the bill we passed is not perfect, it contains many worthwhile provisions.
Illinois farmers have endured some of the most extreme weather conditions in recent years, including record floods this year and the worst drought in a generation just a year ago. That is why we need to keep in place a strong and stable crop insurance program so that farmers, always at the mercy of Mother Nature, can continue to provide the food our Nation and our world depend on. The bill also contains an amendment that I sponsored that would help aid improvements to river transportation infrastructure,
flood prevention and drought relief, including the aging locks and dam system along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.
The family farmers I talk with back home in Illinois want the security and the stability of a 5-year farm bill. That is how they can plan for future growth and investments and can continue to provide the world with a stable food supply. Let's give them the certainty by passing a 5-year farm bill.
Mr. LUCAS. I recognize the gentleman from Washington's concerns about the one-size-fits-all approach of the FDA. In fact, this was among the several concerns we raised during debate in the House when the Food Safety Modernization Act was under consideration.
I share his belief that, if the FDA is going to be given the task of telling farmers how to farm, it should do so after a thorough examination of the risks of the different types of fruits and vegetables and then, based on the best available science, consider the growing methods and the conditions of individual commodities when developing regulations.
The Acting CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has expired.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. I would like to thank the chairman for his words and his attention to this issue that is so important to the growers of my central Washington district. I look forward to continuing to work with him to ensure that the new food safety regulations recognize the diverse way that farms across the Nation grow our food and keep them safe for the public.
Mr. LUCAS. Madam Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from California, a home of amazingly diverse agriculture, Mr. LaMalfa.
Mr. PETERSON. Madam Chair, I'm now pleased to yield 3 minutes to the minority whip, the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer).
(Mr. HOYER asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding. I thank him for his work, and I thank Mr. Lucas for his work.
We struggle in this Congress to try to bring bipartisan legislation to the floor. It's a shame. [Page: H3728]
I've normally voted for the farm bill for a reason I will express here. First of all, the farm bill is an important piece of legislation. It sets Federal policy in a range of areas that deeply affect the lives of farmers, their communities, and consumers. But it also makes a huge difference in the lives of those who rely on food assistance to avoid hunger, especially children.
It's a shame that we could not consider the farm bill on its merits without undermining its credibility with what we clearly believe are not reforms and not the elimination of waste, fraud, and abuse.
It's so simple to say that. I've heard that for all the time I've been here in Congress. Let's just cut out fraud, waste, and abuse. Everybody wants to cut out fraud, waste, and abuse; but cutting out assistance for hungry people is neither fraud, nor waste nor abuse. Well, it may be abuse.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP as it is called, protects over 46 million Americans who are at risk of going without sufficient food. Nearly half of those are children. Are there some reforms that are needed? Perhaps. And the Senate has made those reforms in a moderate, considered way.
The average monthly benefit per participant last year according to the USDA was $133.41. I challenge any Member of this House to live on $133.41 for food. That's $4.45 a day.
At a time when millions remain out of work struggling to support themselves and their family as they seek jobs, it would be irresponsible to make the kinds of cuts that are proposed in this bill. No one in the richest country on the face of the Earth should go hungry in this country.
Yet that's exactly what this bill would do, slashing $20.5 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and putting 2 million of our fellow Americans at risk.
Feed the hungry; clothe the naked; give shelter to the homeless--that's not a political policy. That's a moral policy. Our faiths teach us that.
While we've cut millions in funding in this bill, this Congress has done nothing to advance legislation that will help create jobs or opportunities to help expand our middle class. While it's important that Congress provide certainty to the agricultural community, which I support, this unbalanced bill takes the wrong approach on these cuts to SNAP.
The Acting CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has expired.
Mr. HOYER. Madam Chair, I'm disappointed. This ought to be a bipartisan bill. Mr. Peterson wants it to be a bipartisan bill and many of our people and, as a matter of fact, a majority of our people supported it in committee.
I think the chairman wants it to be a bipartisan bill. I understand he has to deal within the framework of his caucus like every chairman has to do on either side of the aisle. I understand that. But it is a shame.
A bill that ought to be bringing us together for people who provide this country with food and fiber and, indeed, provide a lot of the world with food and fiber, that we have put this almost poison pill--I don't know whether it's going to be a poison pill--but almost poison pill in it, I regret that. It's not worthy of our country. It's not worthy of the morals of this Nation.
But I thank the chairman and I thank the ranking member for their efforts to try to bring us together. Whether they've done so or not, we'll have to see.
Mr. BOUSTANY. Madam Chair, I rise to support this bill, and I certainly appreciate the persistent hard work and leadership of Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson, and I want to thank both for bringing this very important legislation to the floor for a House vote.
In 2012, Louisiana farmers and ranchers produced nearly $11.4 billion in commodities. It's a vital and growing sector of our State's economy, and we need a new farm bill now to provide the kind of certainty going forward for our farmers. Throughout south Louisiana, the agricultural economy is the lifeblood of our rural communities. This is a bipartisan bill containing truly significant reforms, with savings of up to $40 billion.
Given the immense diversity of American agriculture, it's important to have price-loss coverage, which is an important option for our Southern farmers, like our rice farmers. This is critical for their future security.
Additionally, an extension of the U.S. sugar program ensures a level playing field with other nations, which continue to heavily subsidize their sugar industry with unfair trade practices. I strongly urge my colleagues to support this bill.