Breaking News: Senate Passes Farm Bill, Heads to the White House

VFBF President
Wayne F. Pryor
U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) voted today for Senate passage of the bipartisan Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2014, which now goes to the President for his signature.  The legislation included many provisions championed by the Senators that will benefit Virginians, including strengthened crop insurance for farmers and conservation programs for the Chesapeake Bay.  The 2014 farm bill, which saves taxpayers more than $23 billion over 10 years, passed the House last week and was approved in the Senate with broad bipartisan support on a 68-32 vote.
The farm bill provides historic reforms including eliminating wasteful direct payment subsidies, strengthening the agriculture safety net, and reinvesting in the conservation of our natural resources.  The legislation requires reasonable efforts toward land conservation on the part of farmers receiving federal premium subsidies for crop insurance and provides $100 million for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, a new competitive grant program into which the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative has been consolidated. The bill also includes $8.6 billion of savings by tightening a loophole in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit calculations. More importantly, the farm bill rejects the harsh eligibility cuts in the House-passed version of the bill and will not remove anyone from food assistance programs.  
“Virginia Farm Bureau Federation supports the final passage of the conference’s farm bill, “said Wayne F. Pryor, President of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.”Country of Origin Labeling and other livestock issues continue to be important to us. We have debated them through several previous farm bills, and that debate will undoubtedly continue. However, the conservation programs and funding, along with the crop insurance and other programs that help us survive weather extremes and volatile markets are well past due.  We are thrilled the farm bill has passed.”

The 2014 farm bill continues funding for a number of other provisions that will help grow Virginia’s local food systems, including efforts to encourage education and training for new farmers and increased funding for community-supported agriculture programs such as farmers markets.
“I’m very pleased that the House and Senate have again found common ground on major legislation – in this case on a bill that supports Virginia’s farmers and agribusiness while also reducing the deficit,” said Senator Warner. “This legislation will finally give growers and producers the long-term certainty they need to maintain and expand their businesses. I’m also encouraged that the farm bill reaffirms our commitment to protecting the Chesapeake Bay. The new Regional Conservation Partnership Program sustains Bay-related jobs and continues providing Virginia’s farmers with the tools they need to help conserve this important watershed.”
“I’m heartened that Congress came together today to pass a farm bill that restores certainty for farmers across the country,”said Senator Kaine. “This bill saves taxpayers $23 billion over ten years, eliminates wasteful direct payments, strengthens crop insurance, and closes loopholes in the SNAP program without reducing nutrition access for the neediest people.  It also ensures robust support for Chesapeake Bay restoration and improves farmers’ access to export markets and consumers’ access to fresh, local, organic foods.  While no bill of this scope is perfect, this farm bill greatly benefits farmers and families across the country and serves as another positive sign that Congress will work across the aisle to get things done this year.”

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