Washington, DC—U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today commented on Senate passage of the farm bill:
A good, strong farm bill is crucial to South Dakota’s future. In an extremely bipartisan fashion, the Senate today passed a good, strong farm bill. The Senate bill will reduce the deficit by more than $23 billion over ten years and will support the millions of jobs around the country that rely on agriculture. The Senate has done its work. The House Agriculture Committee needs to move a farm bill so that we can give our producers certainty.
Agriculture is South Dakota’s number one industry and our state’s biggest economic driver. It generates over $20 billion annually in economic activity in our state.
The Senate bill takes several important steps to ensure the continued integrity of our farm programs. We eliminate direct payments and establish a new Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program that will help address losses not covered by crop insurance. At the same time, we maintain a strong crop insurance program, which producers have told me time and time again is the most critical risk management tool.
We have also finally included meaningful payment limitations with an overall $250,000 hard cap on the commodity programs. The underlying bill contains a cap of $50,000 on the new ARC program, and we passed Senator Grassley and my amendment with overwhelming bipartisan support to establish a cap on marketing loan gains. The bill also takes some historic steps to close loopholes which have allowed non-farmers to receive payments.
The Farm Bill includes several provisions Johnson worked with colleagues to make sure were included in a final version, including:
– Strong Payment Limits – The bill includes the Grassley/Johnson $250,000 total cap – Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Johnson offered an amendment to cap marketing loan gains at $75,000 (doubled if a spouse is involved in the operation). The amendment passed 75-24. The final bill now includes a $250,000 cap, as has been included in legislation that Grassley and Johnson offered earlier this year.
– Mandatory Rural Development Funding – Johnson cosponsored an amendment offered by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to provide $150 million in mandatory funding for a variety of USDA programs: $50 million for the Value-Added Producer Grant Program; $50 million for the water and wastewater backlog; $15 million for the Rural Micro-entrepreneur Assistance Program; and $35 million for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. The amendment passed 55-44.
– Pine Beetle Funding – The Senate bill provides for the designation of treatment areas on national forests experiencing declining forest health from insect of disease infestation, including the mountain pine beetle. Treatments on designated areas could be carried out with expedited processes in accordance with the Healthy Forest Restoration Act. Johnson and Senator John Thune (R-SD) cosponsored an amendment to increase authorized funding for such treatments from $100 million to $200 million. The amendment passed 77-22.
– Rural Housing Fix – Some communities, including Aberdeen, may become ineligible for USDA Rural Housing Service programs on October 1. Johnson cosponsored an amendment offered by Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) to extend eligibility for existing communities until completion of the next census. The amendment passed by voice vote.
– Maintains a Strong Crop Insurance Program
– Eliminates Direct Payments
– Closes Loopholes – The bill includes language to ensure that actual farmers receive payments.