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Agriculture Committees Approve Farm Bill Drafts – House Cuts Energy Programs

Both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees gave approval last week to their respective versions of a five-year farm bill, setting the stage for a vote in the full Senate and House on the measures soon. The current extension expires in September.

The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee voted its version of the five-year bill out of committee with a bipartisan margin of 15-5 on May 14. The bill contains $800 million in mandatory funding for the energy title (currently unfunded) and that conservation compliance requirements are linked to crop insurance.

The bill includes approximately $23 billion in cuts. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Senate farm bill would save $18 billion over the next 10 years or $24.4 billion if sequestration were repealed.

The House Committee on Agriculture approved its version of the Farm Bill, H.R. 1947, by a vote of 36 to 10. The bill, titled the Federal Agricultural and Reform and Risk Management Act, includes an estimated $39.6 billion in cuts, including the elimination of many energy-related programs.

As Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) had promised, it also consolidates 23 conservation programs into 13, with estimated savings of $6 billion. The full House is expected to begin debate next month on the measure.

The House version makes significant changes to the Energy Title by eliminating mandatory spending, and reauthorizes programs at reduced discretionary funding levels. The committee said the changes will create more than $500 million in savings. The bill also aims to eliminate four programs completely, including the Biofuels Infrastructure Study, the Renewable Fertilizer Study, the Rural Energy Self-sufficiency Initiative and the Forest Biomass for Energy Programs. The Biomass Crop Assistance program would eliminate collection, harvest, storage and transportation payments, and further changes would be made to the Biorefinery Assistance Program by eliminating grant authority for demonstration programs.

House Agriculture Committee Chair Lucas said that “farmers, ranchers, and American taxpayers are counting on us to pass a farm bill. No other committee in Congress is voluntarily cutting money, in a bipartisan way, from its jurisdiction to reduce the size and scope of the federal government.”

Given the work done thus far, industry partners have voiced their optimism that the House and Senate will reach an agreement before the current extension expires.

For more information on House and Senate plans:
House Farm Bill Summary
Senate Farm Bill Summary