Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) today issued a statement following the Senate Agriculture Committee’s markup of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013:
“Today’s markup is just the beginning of drafting the 2013 Farm Bill,” said Thune. “The current climate of budgetary and fiscal restraint requires that we subject all areas of federal spending to close examination—no program can be exempt from reform, including the Farm Bill. Over the past two years in preparation for this Farm Bill, I have introduced legislation that would reform several titles of the bill and save more than $50 billion, while providing a strong safety net for production agriculture, nutrition assistance to those in need, and the necessary tools to protect our forests, soil, and natural resources. Unfortunately, the current Senate Farm Bill fails to meet this level of reform. I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue improving the Farm Bill on the floor and through a conference with the House of Representatives.”
Thune offered and cosponsored several reform-minded Commodity and Food and Nutrition Title amendments to the Farm Bill, including two that were accepted into the Chairman’s Mark and approved by voice vote. An amendment cosponsored by Thune that eliminated outdated fixed target prices for certain commodity crops and saved $276 million was accepted into the bill. Thune’s amendment to require that native sod and longstanding grassland acres converted to sod be tracked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture was incorporated into his sodsaver provision, which was also a part of the bill. The bill also includes Thune’s Forestry Title improvements that will assist fighting pine beetles in the Black Hills.
The bill’s Commodity Title included reforms from Thune’s Aggregate Revenue and Risk Management legislation, which eliminated direct payments and other outdated programs. However, the bill voted on today included a costly fixed target price and counter-cyclical program for peanuts and rice which Thune was unable to support.
During today’s markup, Thune offered the following amendments he believed would have improved the bill; however, they were not accepted:
- An amendment to limit the Adverse Market Price program to rice and peanuts. The new target price program is unnecessary for other crops, and limiting it to just rice and peanuts would save $897 million over 10 years.
- An amendment to ensure a fair regional distribution of nutrition education and obesity grants within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. This amendment would have saved $2 billion over 10 years without impacting SNAP benefits for those currently enrolled in the program.
- An amendment to encourage able-bodied adults without dependents to work part-time or participate in work training programs in order to receive SNAP benefits beyond the current three-month period.