WASHINGTON, Jan. 1, 2013 - The House approved legislation (H.R. 8) late tonight designed to avert the “fiscal cliff” and extend the farm bill until September 2013, sending it to President Obama for his expected signature.
The House voted 257-167 to approve the bill, without amendments. The Senate first passed it early Jan. 1 with an 89-8 vote. The legislation would allow income tax rate increases on individuals earning above $400,000 annually and couples earning above $450,000 annually.
The legislation includes an extension of current dairy policy until Dec. 31, 2013, thus averting a possible increase in the consumer price of milk.
The bill also authorizes at least $160 million for supplemental agricultural disaster assistance as part of the Federal Crop Insurance Act.
After the House vote, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson said Congress has “left rural America out in the cold.”
“An extension represents a short-sighted, temporary fix that ultimately provides inadequate solutions that will leave our farmers and ranchers crippled by uncertainty,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the bill fails to "provide mandatory funding for the energy title, specialty crops and organic provisions, and new important programs for beginning farmers and ranchers.”
Chuck Conner, president of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, said while the bill would “avert tax increases for 98 percent of American taxpayers,” it was "unfortunate" that the agricultural policy provisions were not extended as part of a five-year bill.
“The one-year extension of the farm bill contained in the legislation, while continuing funding for many important programs such as the Market Access Program, is deeply flawed,” Conner said. “Most notably, the extension fails to include the market-based reform provisions of the Dairy Security Act, thereby leaving our nation’s dairy farmers operating without a safety net at a time of high volatility in feed prices.”
After the Senate vote, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) called the extension “a devastating blow to the nation’s dairy farmers.”
“After months of inaction, the plan that passed overnight as part of the fiscal cliff package amounts to shoving farmers over the dairy cliff without providing any safety net below,” said NMPF President Jerry Kozak.
Kozak said the legislation does not include a new dairy safety net program to provide better protection for milk producers.
“These stop-gap efforts don’t even qualify as kicking the can down the road,” Kozak said. “It’s little more than a New Year’s Day, hair-of-the-dog stab at temporarily putting off decisions that should have been made in 2012 about how to move farm policy forward, not offer more of the same.”
The legislation was greeted with similar opposition from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
The group called the bill “blatantly anti-reform” and a “disaster for farmers.”
“The full Senate and the House Agriculture Committee earlier this year agreed to permanently eliminate direct payment subsidies for commodity production regardless of price and income conditions, yet the deal would lock in those egregious subsidies for another full year at a $5 billion price tag,” the coalition said. “On the other hand, many smaller, targeted programs to fund farm and food system reform and rural jobs…were left out completely. Also left out of the final deal is any workable dairy policy for the next year and any disaster aid for livestock and fruit producers.”
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