House Agriculture Committee Draft Farm Bill
Key Development: The House Agriculture Committee releases its draft
2012 farm bill, which would cut $6 billion over 10 years from conservation
programs and save $500 million by eliminating mandatory energy spending and
reducing discretionary energy spending.
What's Next: The committee plans to hold a markup July 11.
By Amena H. Saiyid
Agriculture conservation programs face spending cuts of at least $6 billion
over the next 10 years under a draft version of the 2012 farm bill that the
House Agriculture Committee released July 5.
Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and ranking member
Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) justified the cuts to the conservation programs in the
draft Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM).
They said the draft bill takes a comprehensive look, as opposed to a “piecemeal
approach,” to conservation programs.
The draft bill also would eliminate mandatory funding for energy programs and
would reauthorize programs at reduced discretionary funding levels that will
save taxpayers more than $500 million, according to a summary released by the
The draft bill would streamline current energy programs and repeal five that
have outlived their usefulness, the summary said. They are the Repowering
Assistance Program, the Biofuels Infrastructure Study, and the Renewable
Fertilizer Study, the Rural Energy Self-sufficiency Initiative, and the Forest
Biomass for Energy Programs.
On the issue of conservation, Lucas and Peterson said Congress has created
more than 20 farm bill conservation programs since 1985, “some of which are
regional initiatives and many of them have overlapping functions or goals.”
Both lawmakers described the draft legislation as “a bipartisan bill that
saves taxpayers billions, reduces the nation's deficit, and repeals outdated
policies while reforming, streamlining, and consolidating others.”
The draft bill would reauthorize agriculture and conservation programs for
fiscal years 2013 through 2017. It also would reauthorize funding for renewable
The Agriculture Committee is expected to mark up the bill July 11.
The current five-year farm bill, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of
2008 (Pub. L. No. 110-234), authorized conservation programs on farmlands and
rangelands and renewable energy programs through Sept. 30, 2012.
The House bill's conservation title is largely similar to the Agriculture
Reform, Food, and Jobs Act (S. 3240) that the Senate passed June 21 (120 DEN
The House bill, like S. 3240, achieves $6 billion in savings over 10 years by
streamlining and consolidating existing conservation programs and capping
Like S. 33240, the House bill has proposed to cap acreage enrollment under
the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) at 25 million acres in 2017, down from
the existing 32 million acres authorized under the 2008 farm bill.
Also under the House bill, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) would
see its enrollment capped at 9 million acres, down from the nearly 13 million
acres currently allowed. S. 3240 allowed 10.3 million acres.
Under CRP, the Agriculture Department makes annual payments to farmers and
ranchers and provides them with cost-share assistance to use certain plants to
improve water quality and control soil erosion, which USDA said leads to better
In the CSP, the department pays farmers and ranchers to undertake
conservation activities, such as improving drainage and reducing erosion, that
the states have identified as priorities on working lands.
CRP is run by USDA's Farm Service Agency, while the CSP is run by the Natural
Resources Conservation Service.
Like S. 3240, the House bill would consolidate existing easement programs
into one program, the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program. And like S.
3240, it would take four regional initiatives, including the Chesapeake Bay and
the Great Lakes initiatives, and turn them into a single program, the Regional
Conservation Partnership Program.
On energy programs, the draft bill provides loan guarantees for farmers and
ranchers under the Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP, for renewable
energy systems such as anaerobic digesters, solar or wind projects, and energy
efficiency measures. Loans under REAP also would be available for energy
In an effort to target funding, the authority for feasibility studies under
REAP would be eliminated and a new definition for renewable energy systems would
be created to clarify congressional intent by eliminating funding for ethanol
blender pumps, according to the summary of the bill.
The bill also would authorize loan guarantees for the Biorefinery Assistance
Program, targeting the construction or retrofitting of biorefineries that will
enable the commercial-scale production of advanced biofuels. The bill would
eliminate grant authority for demonstration facilities, the summary said.
A summary of the FARRM bill is available at http://agriculture.house.gov/pdf/FARRM_Summary.pdf.
The text of the draft FARRM bill is available at http://agriculture.house.gov/pdf/legislation/FARRMDiscussionDraft.pdf.