When I became Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in January of this year, I had one primary goal: to ensure that America’s farmers and ranchers have the policies in place that they need to feed, fuel, and clothe the nation while ensuring stability and consistency for farmers, ranchers, consumers, markets, and rural communities. After all, agriculture is the foundation of our livelihood and the lifeblood of rural America. And, while our work will never be done, we are off to a great start.
Farm Security and Rural Investment: House OK's 2002 Farm Bill
President Praises Legislation, Awaits Senate to Concur
May 2, 2002 – U.S. House of Representatives 280 to 141 approval early Thursday afternoon of the 2002 farm bill negotiated by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas) met prompt praise from President Bush, who urged the Senate to act promptly so he may sign the new farm bill into law.
"The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002" is the end result of more than two years and dozens of hearings in rural communities throughout the country, and more than 60 days of House and Senate conference to produce one bill balancing conservation, crops, nutrition, trade and rural development into the nation's comprehensive agricultural policy. The bill is supported by dozens of groups, ranging from the Cotton Council to the National Farmers Union, and from the Food Research Action Center to Ducks Unlimited.
"In addition to desperately needed help for farmers, it contains the largest single increase in conservation funding in history, significant gains for food stamp and nutrition funding, more resources for agricultural research, increased incentives for renewable fuels production, and a strengthened commitment to our rural communities. And it is all accomplished within limits of the budget," said Chairman Combest.
"First and foremost, this Farm Bill provides for a strong safety net for our agricultural producers. The counter-cyclical payments it provides to program crop producers will mean that Congress will not need to provide additional ad hoc income support when prices are in decline," said Charlie Stenholm, the Committee's Ranking Member. "Most importantly, it will continue to provide the American people with the most abundant food supply, the highest quality food and the safest food at the lowest cost to the consumer of any country in the world."
Farmers are facing the fifth year of record low prices and the lowest real net cash income since the Great Depression. As a result, Congress has spent nearly $30 billion over the last four years in emergency assistance. While desperately needed, these ad hoc programs always left producers and their lenders in a state of uncertainty. There was no ability to use the money efficiently under the previous farm law known as "Freedom to Farm."
One of the primary reasons for acting quickly on the farm bill was to end dependence on ad hoc legislation. Chairman Combest noted that today's passage of the "Farm Security and Rural Investment Act" provides better, more flexible help for farmers, and, while the emergency bills have averaged $7 billion per year, this farm bill averages less than $5 billion per year in additional spending to help farmers. The total cost of the bill's farming, nutrition, trade, and rural development aspects for the six-year term of the bill (FY 2002 – FY 2007) is projected at $45.114 billion by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
The President's statement in part read, "I am pleased that the compromise agreement on the farm bill resulted in better balanced commodity loan rates; spending that is no longer front-loaded; and the strongest conservation provisions of any farm bill ever passed by Congress. The final provisions of the farm bill are also consistent with America's international trade obligations, which will strengthen our ability to open foreign markets for American farm products. I thank the conferees for their hard work and urge Congress to send the farm bill to my desk promptly for signature to help ensure the immediate and long-term vitality of our farm economy."
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