February 04, 2014

Crapo Backs Five-Year Farm Bill

Worked to include pulse crops provisions, keep intact the sugar program, PILT payments and senatorâ??s forest roads legislation in final conference report

Washington, D.C. - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo joined a bipartisan majority in the U.S. Senate and voted to approve the House-passed Agricultural Act of 2014 conference report, commonly known as the Farm Bill.  The bill, which passed 68-32, concludes a long process that began last year when the House and Senate passed separate versions.  A conference committee made up of members of the House and Senate has been working for the last several months to iron out the differences and come to a final agreement.  All four members of the Idaho Congressional Delegation voted to support the final agreement.

"Today is a great day for Idaho's agriculture and forest industries throughout our state," said Crapo.  "In all, the Farm Bill consolidates the number of conservation programs by half, slashes $23 billion in federal spending by ending direct payments and streamlines other duplicative federal programs.  

"Unfortunately, an opportunity was missed to enact even more reforms that extend to the bottom-line spending.  Specifically, Idaho and American agriculture producers have stepped up to make sacrifices that will lower spending and contribute to deficit reduction, but the nutrition title, which comprises approximately three quarters of the bill's total price tag, should have received much more scrutiny. 

"The conference report also kept intact redundant permitting requirements relating to aquatic pesticides; costly and burdensome country-of-origin labeling requirements; and the duplicative U.S. Department of Agriculture's catfish inspection program, which the Government Accountability Office singled out as a high risk for waste, fraud and abuse.  I am concerned that Idaho producers may face unprecedented costs and international trade retaliations as a result of these provisions.

"While far from perfect, this bill offers much-needed reforms to strengthen risk management tools and is a far-cry from the status quo.  Idaho's agricultural community needs a farm bill, and this legislation will help producers to continue providing a safe and abundant food supply."

Crapo has worked with the leadership of the conference committee and numerous other colleagues to include provisions essential to Idaho in the final version:

Ø     Keeping the U.S. sugar program intact to give Idaho's sugarbeet producers as well as sugar growers throughout the country the tools they need to combat the trade-distorting subsidies that other nations implement for otherwise uncompetitive industries;

Ø     Modernizing the U.S. dairy industry to provide sound risk management tools to balance supply and demand;Ø     Urging committee leadership to preserve the inclusion of a pulse crops provision that will create a five-year pilot program to promote the use of pulse crops-dry beans, dry peas, lentils and chickpeas-in school lunch programs.  Additionally, the bill finally authorizes the Pulse Health Initiative, which Crapo has long championed, that will support expanded research into the health and nutritional benefits of pulse crops;

Ø     Securing language, authored by Crapo and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), that reaffirms positions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Supreme Court that forest roads used for logging activities will not be threatened by Clean Water Act litigation over water discharge permits as initially intended by Congress;

Ø     And, leading a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from western states in calling for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes, or PILT, program to be reauthorized for one year using savings in the bill to offset the cost. 

"Thanks to hard work of the forest and timber industry along with farmers and ranchers, Idaho products are growing in importance throughout the Pacific northwest and competing in a global economy.  The 2014 Farm Bill maintains the sugar program that is a vital contributor to Idaho sugarbeet growers' ability to compete; ensures that Idaho will remain a top dairy state by providing margin insurance protection, and creates a pilot program and research opportunities that will promote the use of pulse crops, which is already a $20 million industry for our state, according to USDA.  After years of litigation and hardships for rural timber communities, this bill states that the Clean Water Act was never intended to regulate stormwater runoff on Idaho's forest roads.  Finally, Idaho's local communities depend on PILT funding to help provide for schools, road maintenance and law enforcement.  With the inclusion of a reauthorization of one-year of full PILT funding, Idaho's counties will know they will be able to provide these essential services.  

"The importance of the Farm Bill to Idaho cannot be overstated.  But, even with its passage, we must continue to find ways to implement further market-based reforms that create an environment for growth, eliminate unnecessary obstacles for producers and continue to reduce the budget deficit," Crapo concluded.