Rep. Sanford Bishop Sees Strong Effort on 2012 Farm Bill
Sunday, March 4th, 2012
Activity on the 2012 Farm Bill picked up in recent weeks. The U.S. House Agriculture Committee announced it will begin field hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill this month. The hearings in New York, Arkansas, Kansas and Illinois will give committee members a chance to hear firsthand of the impact of farm policy on farmers and ranchers before they begin writing legislation. In the U.S. Senate, recent reports have indicated that members of the Agriculture Committee could mark up a new farm bill by Easter.
"There's a strong effort under way to get something done," said Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., D-Ga. "I'm hopeful we'll discharge our responsibility with a new Farm Bill because it's so very important to Georgia farmers and the Georgia economy as well as the national economy."
Bishop, who is serving his 10th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, helped craft the 2008 Farm Bill that expires in September. Absent a new bill, a resolution could be passed to continue certain policies currently in existence.
"Although leaders have reserved time in the month of September to bring a farm bill to the floor of the House, we do have only a limited number of days in session because it's an election year. Some believe that the bill could run into the lame duck session," Bishop said.
Agriculture spending cuts: how big? With the budget deficit at unsustainably high levels, Bishop expects reductions in all areas of the farm bill. However, the exact amount of the cuts remains to be determined.
"We're facing tremendous fiscal challenges but it's important that there be fair treatment and the cuts in agriculture should not be a bigger hit than in other policy areas," Bishop said.
In the fall of 2011, the agriculture committees in both the House and the Senate prepared a proposal for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction or Supercommittee that contained $23 billion in U.S. Department of Agriculture spending cuts over a 10-year period. Many believe this will be the starting point for a 2012 Farm Bill.
Others expect the spending cuts to be higher. In his deficit reduction plan introduced last fall, President Obama proposed cutting ag spending by $33 billion. Some Tea Party members question any farm bill spending.
Without any Congressional action in 2012 and with the failure of the Supercommittee to reach agreement on a deficit reduction plan, annual appropriations are subject to across-the-board cuts scheduled to take effect in January 2013. These automatic cuts would reduce agriculture-related spending by $14 billion.
Priorities for a 2012 Farm Bill
Bishop's priorities for a 2012 Farm Bill include:
- Preserving a safety net for farmers and ranchers. According to Bishop, one of the biggest changes in the bill will be the shift from direct payments to more risk management programs.
- Maintaining land and water conservation programs.
- Sustaining rural development programs including broadband infrastructure incentives so that rural communities have the same opportunities for growth and development as urban communities.
- Providing effective nutritional programs including school lunch programs, supplemental nutrition programs – also known as food stamps – and community feeding programs.
- Maintaining support of agriculture-related research and land grant universities. "The quality of American agriculture products is the highest in the world and that's due in part to our ag research programs. We cannot afford to shortchange that," Bishop said.
Not all of Bishop's priorities align with those of the Obama administration. For example, in his proposed FY2013 budget, President Obama included an $8 billion cut to crop insurance subsidies. Crop insurance is one of the key risk management programs that can provide a safety net for growers in place of direct payments.
"The President's budget is just a recommendation to Congress. We decide what if any proposals are adopted and it's not certain we will follow his recommendations. I believe it's important to protect agricultural interests so our farmers and ranchers can compete in a global marketplace," Bishop said.
An opportunity to give account Bishop is seeking re-election this November to what would be his 11th term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Republicans candidates are questioning his connection to and understanding of the voters in the 2nd District, saying he is out of touch.
"I look at every election as an opportunity to give account for our stewardship. We've always responded to the needs of our district and delivered results. I believe we've done it well and have build a tangible track record that I look forward to sharing with voters," Bishop said.
More information on Rep. Bishop's record and his position on the issues, including agriculture, is available at bishop.house.gov.