Wildlife Management Institute

WMI Outdoor News Bulletin Farm Bill Update: Senate Passes Bill, House Introduces Their Version
Farm Bill Update: Senate Passes Bill, House Introduces Their Version PDF Print E-mail

image of wheat field, Credit: Emily Heath, Flickr

In late June, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill by a vote of 64 to 35, according to the Wildlife Management Institute. It is projected that this legislation would save about $23 billion over the next 10 years when compared to the 2008 Farm Bill.  About $6 billion of that savings will come largely by consolidating 23 conservation programs into 13. While conservation programs sustained significant reductions, many in the conservation community are generally pleased that these programs did not suffer more cuts in the name of federal deficit reduction.

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which is by far the most important program for wildlife habitat, was pared back from a cap of 30 million acres in 2013 to 25 million acres in 2017. This is a significant reduction, but many feared that cuts to CRP would be far more significant. The bill also stipulates that five percent of funds distributed through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) be directed towards wildlife habitat.

In somewhat of a surprise, Senators adopted an amendment to the legislation that requires agricultural producers who receive a subsidy for crop insurance to adhere to a basic set of conservation compliance provisions. In addition, an amendment that would have added a series of sportsmen’s related bills was not included in the final list of amendments that were considered by the full Senate.

On July 5, the House Agriculture Committee, Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) introduced the House’s version of the 2012 Farm Bill, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act.  Their version would save more than $35 billion in mandatory spending through repeal or consolidation of more than 100 programs.  Similar to the Senate bill, this includes a $6.1 billion reduction and consolidation of 23 conservation programs down to 13. The House Agriculture Committee amended and passed their version of the bill on July 12 and it will now move to the House floor for action.

The version of the legislation that passed the House Agriculture Committee does not include a provision to link crop insurance subsidies with conservation compliance. Time is limited for the full House to act and negotiate a compromise with the Senate in conference committee before the current Farm Bill expires on September 30. (pmr)