The House Agriculture Committee began markup of HR 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 this morning. In his opening comments, Committee Chairman Frank Lucas says their version of the farm bill is reform-minded and developed with true bipartisanship. “No other authorizing committee in Congress is voluntarily cutting money from its jurisdiction to reduce the size and scope of the federal government,” he says.
Lucas adds no one on the committee will like everything in the farm bill, including himself, but it will need both Republican and Democratic support to pass. “The FARRM Act reforms the SNAP program for the first time since the welfare reforms of 1996,” he says. “We also reform farm programs. We eliminate direct payments; the FARRM Act reflects the belief in a true safety net – something used when disaster hits.”
Ranking member Colin Peterson says today is hopefully the ‘beginning of the end’ of a process that has gone on in his words ‘far too long’. “I’m optimistic we’re going to be able to get this done,” he says. “Hopefully in June it will go to the floor and then we can get the bill conferenced. It would be nice to get this done before the August recess. I think we could do that if we get on track here.”
Passing a farm bill, Lucas says, will “give certainty to an industry that has been a bright spot in an otherwise dismal economy” and offer taxpayers billions of dollars in deficit reduction.