House-Passed Farm Bill Victory for Alabama
U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) today applauded House passage of a new five-year Farm Bill, highlighting the significant victories for Alabama-specific agricultural products and the inclusion of long-needed reforms to federal programs that rein in spending.
The Farm Bill passed the House of Representatives today by a vote of 251 to 166. All seven members of the Alabama House delegation voted in favor of the bill.
“After three years of hard work, today the House finally passed a Farm Bill that provides certainty for our nation's farmers and institutes money-saving reforms to agriculture and nutrition policy that we've needed for some time,” Rep. Roby said. “This bill is a win for Alabama farmers and foresters. It is also a win for taxpayers. The Farm Bill replaces outdated policies left over from the Pelosi-led Congress and represents a positive step toward fiscal responsibility.”
Rep. Roby has served the last three years on the House Committee on Agriculture. Despite her recent move to the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Roby continued to serve on the Conference Committee tasked with working through the differences of the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill.
The previous Farm Bill was passed in 2008 and expired in 2012, with temporary extensions causing America’s farmers to operate with significant uncertainty. Failure to pass the Farm Bill would not only put the nation's agriculture industry at risk, but it would also doom the first major reforms to the food stamp program since the mid-1990s. Because food stamps are an "autopilot" mandatory spending program, revisions to the nutrition title are necessary to secure changes in the program.
The Farm Bill contains reforms to the food stamp program that will save taxpayers $8 billion by:
• Ensuring illegal aliens cannot fraudulently obtain food stamps by requiring the use of E-Verify - a provision personally championed by Rep. Roby;
• Instituting efforts to help food stamp recipients secure employment through job training and other services;
• Closing the LIHEAP loophole which allowed states to game the system and artificially increase benefit levels; and,
• Cracking down on trafficking and fraud, including closing a loophole that allowed lottery winners to receive food stamps.
On the agriculture side, the bill includes cost-effective reforms, as well as provisions of particular benefit to Alabama farmers and foresters. Specifically, the bill:
• Strengthens crop insurance by allowing farmers to invest in their own risk management policies;
• Repeals outdated programs and consolidates duplicative ones, eliminating nearly 100 programs or authorizations;
• Boosts conditions important to Alabama's $21 billion dollar forestry industry relating to the EPA's regulations on forest roads and expands the use of forest products;
• Includes a provision Rep. Roby advocated for to reduce the amount of land allowed into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), restricting the increasingly-frequent practice of paying landowners to let fertile cropland go unplanted for years; and,
• Contains another provision championed by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) that lifts restrictions on irrigation access for Alabama farmers.
Overall, reforms contained in the new five-year Farm Bill save taxpayers more than $23 billion.
“The United States needs nutrition policy that makes sense. Food stamps have played and will continue to play an important role in taking care of our most needy Americans. But the program exists to help lift up those who have hit bottom, not to keep them there. That's why it is concerning that over the past five years food stamp rolls have more than doubled,” Rep. Roby said.
“Like President Reagan said, the success of our welfare programs should be measured not by how many the government can enroll, but by how many families can get off assistance and become self-reliant. Work toward that goal certainly continues, but reforms contained in this Farm Bill are a major step in the right direction.”
You can learn more about the bill here.