Tuesday, February 04, 2014

President Obama Issues Statement On Newly Approved Farm Bill, The Agriculture Act of 2014

The President with Iowa farmers in 2012
President says $956.4 billion bipartisan compromise bill "isn’t perfect" but "will make a positive difference not only for the rural economies that grow America’s food, but for our nation"...
Update 2, Feb. 7: The White House will livestream the bill signing 
UPDATE: The President will sign the bill on Friday in Michigan
Washington, DC - President Barack Obama on Tuesday afternoon issued a statement about the newly passed Farm Bill shortly after the Senate approved the Agriculture Act of 2014 on a vote of 68-32, ending a contentious two-year battle.  The House approved the compromise measure last week. 

The bipartisan bill "will build on the historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, create new jobs and opportunities, and protect the most vulnerable Americans," President Obama said.

The White House has already said the President will sign the 959-page legislation, which reauthorizes Department of Agriculture programs for five years.  It will cost $956.4 billion over 10 years between FY 2014 and FY 2023, while slashing about $23 billion in federal spending if the budget savings under the sequester are included, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

"This bill provides certainty to America’s farmers and ranchers, and contains a variety of commonsense reforms that my Administration has consistently called for," President Obama said, "including reforming and eliminating direct farm subsidies and providing assistance for farmers when they need it most."

President Obama pledged to end farm subsidies during his first run for national office.  The bill consolidates dozens of Agriculture Department programs, changes crop insurance, and cuts about $8 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka Food Stamps) over ten years.  

Roughly 79.9% of the spending goes to Food Stamps, which are funded at $756 billion.  The cut amounts to $800 million a year, or about 1%.  One in seven Americans is enrolled in SNAP, which has ballooned over the last decade.

The bill "will continue reducing our deficits without gutting the vital assistance programs millions of hardworking Americans count on to help put food on the table for their families," President Obama said. 

The rest of the spending is split between crop insurance ($89.8 billion), the commodity title ($44.4 billion), conservation programs ($56 billion), and everything else. 

"It will support conservation of valuable lands, spur the development of renewable energy, and incentivize healthier nutrition for all Americans," President Obama said.

"As with any compromise, the Farm Bill isn’t perfect--but on the whole, it will make a positive difference not only for the rural economies that grow America’s food, but for our nation."

The bill will offer job opportunities for 16 million Americans, according to Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), one of the principal negotiators, who declared on Monday that "This is not your father's farm bill."  The other principals were Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-Miss) and House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn).

The legislation is 959 pages long, with another 156 pages of conference report language on the bill.

*Download the Agriculture Act 2014 {PDF, 959 pages}

*Download the Conference Report {PDF, 156 pages}

President Obama's full statement:

"Today, in a strong bipartisan vote, the U.S. Senate came together to pass a comprehensive Farm Bill – legislation that will build on the historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, create new jobs and opportunities, and protect the most vulnerable Americans.  This bill provides certainty to America’s farmers and ranchers, and contains a variety of commonsense reforms that my Administration has consistently called for, including reforming and eliminating direct farm subsidies and providing assistance for farmers when they need it most.  It will continue reducing our deficits without gutting the vital assistance programs millions of hardworking Americans count on to help put food on the table for their families.  And it will support conservation of valuable lands, spur the development of renewable energy, and incentivize healthier nutrition for all Americans.   As with any compromise, the Farm Bill isn’t perfect – but on the whole, it will make a positive difference not only for the rural economies that grow America’s food, but for our nation."

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Photo by Pete Souza/White House, taken in Missouri Valley, Iowa, Aug. 13, 2012 when President toured the McIntosh family farm to view the effects of the drought.  Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, foreground, joined the President.