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Farm bill debate begins in House

Tuesday afternoon marked the opening debate on the Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 in the House of Representatives.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas called the measure “a different farm bill for different times.” He estimates the bill will save taxpayers 40 billion dollars over the next decade. By contrast, the Senate farm bill is estimated to save $24 billion over ten years. To put these savings into perspective, President Obama requested a fiscal 2013 budget of $3.8 trillion. From that figure, daily spending on the part of the US government can be estimated at $10.4 billion.

In his remarks, Chairman Lucas highlighted the House farm bill’s livestock disaster assistance, its elimination of direct payments and its repeal of the ACRE program, crop disaster program, and counter-cyclical payments.

Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson also delivered remarks, focusing on reforms to dairy programs. He said the new dairy safety net, crafted in part by the dairy industry over four years, addresses dairy market volatility. Peterson said the reform helps consumers by stabilizing milk prices and eliminating price spikes.

For the FARRM Act to get to conference and head to President Obama’s desk before the end of the fiscal year on September 30, Peterson recommended the House keep the bill bipartisan and stick to the Committee’s framework.

Floor debate on amendments began the morning of June 19. Both Lucas and Peterson expect the House to pass the farm bill by the last votes of the week in the afternoon of June 20.

Among the amendments submitted to the House Rules Committee before debate was one amendment from Jim McGovern of Massachusetts to eliminate the House’s $20.5 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). House Democrats strongly oppose the cuts, but could vote in support of the bill regardless in order to speed it along to conference, where like-minded Senators are more likely to reduce the cuts.

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