House Committee Considers Farm Bill Amendments

Last month, we told you about how the U.S. Senate had trimmed the number of amendments in the Senate Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012, better known as the Farm Bill, from 300 down to 73. Today, the debate moved to the House, as the House Agriculture Committee was adding and subtracting the lower chamber’s own amendments (about 100 so far) to the overall legislation, which members there have named the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act or FARRM.

The first amendment to come up would have made major changes to the dairy program and eliminated the market stabilization program for milk pricing in the current Senate version of the Farm Bill. Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) and David Scott (D-Georgia) proposed a safety net for dairy producers without requiring them to participate in a supply management program.

Goodlatte argued that their amendment is more in line with the overall Farm Bill making its way through Congress and would actually provide more support for smaller family dairy farms. Scott, the co-sponsor on the amendment, said the main point is that it would keep milk and dairy products affordable for consumers. “The stabilization program that our amendment would take out would artificially reduce the supply of milk throughout this country, thereby, increasing milk and dairy product prices for consumers,” he said, adding that economic times are too tough to do this.

But Ranking Member of the House Ag Committee Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) called the amendment a recipe for disaster. He pointed to the dairy collapse in 2009 as a prime example of why the current safety net in the bill is needed. And he disagreed with Scott’s contention about prices. “What a bunch of nonsense. We had the lowest milk prices in history [in 2009], and did anyone cut their prices at the retail level? No, they raised them. Give me a break!” Peterson was joined by committee chairman Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) in calling for the defeat of the amendment but it was ultimately defeated.

Listen to the debate from the House Agriculture Committee meeting here:
House Ag Committee hearing on Dairy Provisions of Farm Bill

There’s sure to be more amendments proposed, defeated and approved as the legislation makes its way through the process in the House. And then, both chambers get to work out the remaining differences in conference committee. We’ll keep our eyes on the progress and let you know what is next. Stay tuned!

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