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Farm bill released for final votes in Congress

DANIEL LOOKER 01/27/2014 @ 5:34pm Business Editor

A final draft of a 2014 farm bill worked out in closed-door negotiations between House and Senate ag committee leaders was released late Monday, with support from leading farm groups but not all livestock interests.

According to the American Soybean Association, which favors passage in a vote that could take place this week in the House of Representatives.

According to ASA, the bill includes a choice between an ASA-supported revenue program that covers both price and yield losses with county and farm level options, and a price support program which allows the optional purchase of insurance coverage under a Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO). The bill also eliminates controversial Direct Payments while maintaining decoupled farm support programs that will minimize the possibility of planting and production distortions that could trigger new WTO challenges. The language in Title 1 allows producers to choose between maintaining existing crop acreage base or reallocating their current base acreage to reflect average acres planted to covered commodities in 2009-2012.

"This has been a trying process to be sure, but we think that through it all, the conferees and their leadership have produced a framework that will serve the best interests of soybean farmers," said Ray Gaesser, ASA President and farmer from Corning, Iowa. "Chairwoman [Debbie] Stabenow, Chairman [Frank] Lucas and Ranking Members [Thad] Cochran and [Collin] Peterson deserve great credit and our sincere thanks for pushing this bill to the finish line. We are grateful for that hard work and perseverance, and we call on the House and the Senate to vote 'yes' and bring the process to a conclusion."

But livestock commodity groups and food associations say that their members will face economic harm because in its current form the 2014 farm bill "fails to fix the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling law." Canada and Mexico filed a complaint over the law with the World Trade Organization, which is expected to rule on it next month. If the WTO finds that the labeling law doesn’t comply with U.S. trade obligations under the WTO, Canada and Mexico are set to place retaliatory tariffs on dozens of U.S. products, including beef, pork, furniture and bakery goods.

The agreement between negotiators was announced late Monday by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. Here is a slightly condensed version of the official statement:

House and Senate agriculture leaders today announced a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on a five-year farm bill that will reduce the deficit, grow the economy and provide certainty to the 16 million Americans whose jobs depend on agriculture. The Agricultural Act of 2014 contains major reforms including eliminating the direct payment program, streamlining and consolidating numerous programs to improve their effectiveness and reduce duplication, and cutting down on program misuse. The bill also strengthens our nation’s commitment to support farmers and ranchers affected by natural disasters or significant economic losses, and renews a national commitment to protect land, water, and other natural resources.

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