WASHINGTON, DC – Republican U.S. Reps. Gregg Harper and Alan Nunnelee voted in favor of a bill today that sets the course for farm policy and food programs for the next five years, saving taxpayers $16.6 billion relative to current law.
“Agriculture is Mississippi’s number one industry and the backbone of America’s economy,” said Harper, a third-term lawmaker from the Magnolia State. “This agreement gives our farmers, ranchers, and consumers the stability they need and deserve.”
The House-Senate agreement, formally known as the “Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2014,” eliminates or consolidates roughly 100 U.S. Department of Agriculture programs and reforms food stamps for the first time since the mid-1990s, all the while maintaining assistance for families in need.
Direct payments to farmers seeking aid following significant crop losses have been updated to pay out of existing insurance funds. Taxpayer protections are also strengthened by encouraging an inclusive public-private partnership that makes sure farmers invest in their own risk management.
Lawmakers adjusted eligibility standards for food assistance programs, including the launch of a 10-state pilot program to help able-bodied adults take part in work. Rules are also improved to clarify that lottery winners and undocumented immigrants cannot receive benefits.
“This bill represents the most significant savings in agriculture programs in our nation’s history,” added Harper. “Because of the conservative leadership of Senator Thad Cochran, Americans will experience the benefits of a farm bill that helps farmers and reflects the values of the Mississippians we serve in Congress.”
“The conference agreement passed today provides certainty to the number one industry in our state: agriculture. While far from perfect, this bill continues my pledge to change the culture of Washington. The conference agreement includes reforms to programs that will make them more efficient, and includes cuts to mandatory spending. Without passage, farm programs, food stamps, duplication and regulatory burdens would have continued on auto-pilot with zero conservative reforms and oversight,” Nunnelee said.
H.R. 2642 repeals or consolidates nearly 100 programs administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The legislation achieves the first real reforms to the food stamp program since 1996, while maintaining food assistance for those that truly need it. The conference report authorizes federal agriculture programs for an additional five years, and achieves $23 billion in mandatory spending cuts, including $8 billion from the food stamp program.
Additional reforms include the consolidation of duplicative conservation programs and elimination overlapping reporting requirements, among other consumer reliefs.
The bill now advances to the Senate, where the chamber is expected to consider the agreement soon.