WASHINGTON, D.C.--Today the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, of which Senator Thune is a member, held a markup and passed the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012. The 2012 Farm Bill makes significant changes and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected it would save $24.7 billion over the next 10 years over the 2008 Farm Bill levels, although through the amendment process that number was likely changed during today's markup.
"Although there is room for improvement to the Farm Bill that passed today, I believe it is a strong step toward reforming agriculture programs in a fiscally responsible way," said Thune. "This bill will save more than the $23 billion goal we were aiming for while providing a strong safety-net for farmers and ranchers across this country, making common-sense improvements to conservation programs, and addressing the pine beetle epidemic that is devastating forests across the country, including the Black Hills National Forest."
The Commodity Title of the bill, which Thune played a key role in designing calls for the elimination of the Direct and Counter-cyclical payment programs and the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program at a savings of over $50 billion and replaces them with a new Average Risk Coverage (ARC) program (at a cost of $28.9 billion). The ARC program payments may not exceed $50,000 and high earning producers would not be eligible for the program. The Commodity Title ARC program was created using the Aggregate Revenue and Risk Management (ARRM) program Senator Thune introduced late last year and which was scored by CBO as saving more than $20 billion over 10 years.
The Farm Bill as passed today would combine the current 23 conservation programs into 13 and extend the Conservation Reserve Program through 2017. The CRP enrollment cap will be reduced to 25 million acres by 2017. Current crop insurance policy encourages the conversion of native sod and grassland to commodity crop production.
A Thune amendment was accepted into the Farm Bill which will reduce the amount of crop insurance premium subsidies for four years on crops grown on native sod converted to cropland and reduce indemnity levels, in order to discourage abuse and conversion of grasslands to cropland for crop insurance benefits. Thune's amendment saves nearly $200 million over 10 years.
Based on a bill Thune introduced in March to address pine beetle infestation, language was included in the Forestry Title that will benefit the Black Hills National Forest because it would qualify as a special treatment area. Not later than 60 days after the enactment of this bill, the Secretary must designate at least one national forest in each state based on declining forest health (such as the pine beetle epidemic in the Black Hills), if requested by the Governor of a state. This authorization carries an appropriation authorization of $100 million for each of the fiscal years 2013 through 2017.
Senator Thune's opening statement from the markup can be seen here.
The 2008 Farm Bill Authorization expires on September 30, 2012 and today's action will pave the way for future Senate action on this important legislation.