The House Agriculture Committee has passed a farm bill that maintains safety nets for commodities while adding to programs in nutrition, renewable energy, and conservation, as well as new funds for fruits and vegetables. The House is expected to vote on the bill before Congress' August recess.
"We have incorporated some new ideas and important reforms in this Farm Bill, focusing farm program benefits so they get to real farmers and boosting investment in programs that help those who haven't received benefits through the Farm Bill before," Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., says.
Some critics of Peterson's original proposal thought more money should go towards fruit and vegetable programs. The funding Peterson originally proposed is roughly doubled in the committee's version, with about $1.6 billion for specialty crop grants, research, conservation and produce purchases.
Another important issue is a $1 million adjusted gross income cap on individuals eligible to receive farm subsidies, a provision which Peterson says could save the government $522 million over ten years. The provision also prevents individuals from collecting payments under multiple business entities.
Some other features include:
- Providing farmers participating in commodity programs with a choice between traditional price protection and new market-oriented revenue coverage payments.
- Rebalancing loan rates and target prices among commodities, aiming to improve regional equity.
- Cutting federal payment rates to crop insurance companies that are making record profits due to higher crop prices.
- Extending conservation programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentive Program, and the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program.