Farm Bill Passes Out of House Ag Committee

Chairman Peterson and the Ag Committee passed a Farm Bill at 10 PM last night, after 2.5 days of discussion.

The Farm Bill, which included significant new money for specialty crops (fruits and vegetables) and made some of the necessary changes to the food stamp program, did not contain meaningful reform in the Commodity title. While much of the press,  Speaker Pelosi & Majority Leader Hoyer seem to have drunk Chairman Peterson’s Kool-Aid about commodity reform, the total savings from the minor payment limitations only amounts to $50 million a year, a drop in the bucket compared with the $226 billion total spending in the House Committee bill.

Here’s how other healthy food priorities fared:

•    Community Food Projects: CFP was included in the mark at $30 million in annual discretionary funds (need to be fought for every year) and no amendment was offered to change the funding to mandatory (funds that are included in the Farm Bill and don’t need to be appropriated each year) because of lack of new mandatory funds in the Committee.

•    Geographic Preference/Local Procurement: An amendment, offered by Steve Kagen (D-WI) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), to  allow schools to use Geographic Preference to request local foods for all child nutrition programs covered by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 was adopted by the Committee on a voice vote.
•    Healthy Food Enterprise Development (HFED): An amendment, offered by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), to include a local preference for loans and loan guarantees under the Rural Development Business and Industry Loan Program, was adopted by the Committee on a voice vote.
•    Farmers Market Promotion Program: An amendment was adopted to change the name of the program to the Farmer-to-Consumer Marketing Assistance Program and to outline the specific activities under the program. The funding remains the same as in the original draft- at $5 million for each of the first 3 yrs and $10 million for each of the last 2 yrs in mandatory funds.

•    In the Manager’s amendment, the mandatory funding for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable (Snack) Program was increased to $70 million per year and to include 35 schools in each of 50 states.

•    The committee voted to use $4 billion in funds from the Ways and Means committee to finance some of the necessary changes to the Food Stamp program (increasing the standard and child care deductions, raising the minimum monthly benefit, disregarding military combat pay, exempting retirement and education savings accounts from affecting food stamp eligibility and indexing for inflation the $2000 and $3000 asset limits, and mandatory funding increases for the TEFAP program, as included in the En Bloc Amendment. Amendments to remove the indexing of the standard deduction and the ban on privatizing food stamp enrollment were rejected. Measures to remove the 5-year waiting period for legal immigrants to receive food stamps were not included.

•    In the Managers Amendment, organic research was extended at $25 million in mandatory funding per year.

•    Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat was included in the Farm Bill with a compromise 3-tier system to account for products of mixed origin. The committee went into a closed session late on Thursday, just before passing the bill, leading to an announcement by Chairman Peterson that he and Ranking Member Goodlatte would work out the details of the COOL provision themselves.

•    An amendment was adopted to remove a provision added by Leonard Boswell (D-IA) in subcommittee, that would have banned livestock contracts from including mandatory arbitration provisions, as many of them do now. This has the effect of leaving many small livestock farmers without the option of legal recourse against large corporate buyers that favor large operations.

•     An amendment was adopted to put into law a requirement for USDA to create a uniform evaluation standard for the Food Stamp Nutrition Education program (referred to in the House draft as the Secure Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Nutrition Education program) across states, with no additional funding needed.

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5 Responses to “Farm Bill Passes Out of House Ag Committee”

  1. gp Says:

    shalom.. .laughing out loud at the Kool aid reference since we use that here all the time. We must, must press on for this.

    gp in montana

  2. Naomi Marcus Says:

    Dear Tsimmes,

    This is soooo important. The Farm Bill comes up every 5 years –and this is

  3. Naomi Marcus Says:

    Dear Tsimmes,

    This is soooo important. The Farm Bill comes up every 5 years and determines what is produced, where it is produced, and how it is produced, and ultimately what food is marketed, distributed, and sold. Farm policies and subsidies are responsible for the high fructose corn syrup-laced drinks, corn-fed livestock, and soy-derivative pseudofood diet that Americans eat. THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE. Check out the website of Congressman Ron Kind, who wants to reduce the amount going to the big industrial agriculture and nurture small farms and health and nutrition programs, as well as provide food to the hungry. http://www.house.gov/kind/pres.....ndment.pdf.

    And keep making a tsimmes!

    Naomi

  4. Tzimmes-Maker Says:

    Naomi,

    Thanks for your comment. I’m glad someone finally gets the tzimmes reference. There are good ideas in the Kind amendment (http://www.rules.house.gov/110.....ind110.pdf), but many risks as well– risks for small farmers with the changes to the Commodity title (farm subsidies) and the risk of extending the 2002 farm bill if neither bill passes. There are many nutrition, health, diversity and rural development additions to the Ag Committee bill and there are potential political consequences to the Farm Bill. It’s important to recognize the nuance of the issue and not necessarily see it as a black and white issue.

  5. Rachel Bonfanti Says:

    Local Procurement as a means to provide healthier, more environmentally friendly lunch options to school children is an important step in improving America’s food dilemma. As a child, I attended public schools in Jacksonville, Florida and regularly ate school lunches. Year after year, the schools’ cafeterias passed off junk food like pizza and french fries as a good lunch. Fruits and vegetables were always from a can if they appeared in the lunch line at all. Why have our public school kids been eating this junk for years? Our currently dysfunctional Farm Bill has everything to do with it and unless change is made, kids (especially from lower income families) will continue to eat poorly at school. We need healthy food for a healthy future. Check out http://www.healthyfarmbill.org to send a letter to Congress urging them to make positive change.
    Visit http://www.farmandfoodproject.org to read more about the 2007 Farm Bill and the Farm and Food Policy Project.

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