Farm bill provides security, nutrition
By Rep. Tim Holden
The Patriot-News’ Jan. 11 editorial on the federal Farm Bill was right on that the bill is serious business “that directly affects farmers and the rest of us.” Our state is America’s fourth largest producer of food products. The farm bill is essential to ensuring that Americans have food security, and that agricultural producers can continue to feed us, clothe us, and fuel our future.
Both the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill are fiscally responsible and do not add one cent to the nation’s deficit. Despite what many people might think, only about 12 percent of the House bill funding goes to commodity support. This includes the milk income program, which provides a safety net for our small dairy farmers when prices fall well below the cost of production, as farm prices vary widely through market fluctuations.
The majority of funding is for nutrition to ensure that millions of Americans, especially seniors and children, don’t go hungry. Other portions are dedicated to rural development, education, trade, international aid, animal health and welfare, research and food safety.
The House bill cuts commodity support income eligibility levels by 60 to 80 percent. Way down from the current hard cap of $2.5 million, the House bill would prohibit farm program payments to individuals with adjusted gross incomes between $500,000 and $1 million unless at least two-thirds of the income comes from farm, ranch or forestry sources. The bill would kick all millionaires out of programs.
Further, the bill brings additional transparency to farm programs by directly tying payments to those who receive them. It closes loopholes that allow people to avoid payment limits by receiving money through multiple business units.
As Vice-Chairman of the House’s Agriculture Committee, and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy, and Research, I am proud that this Farm Bill makes historic investments in conservation, nutrition, fruit and vegetable production, and renewable energy. At my request, the bill contains $150 million for a Chesapeake Bay program that will help restore the Susquehanna River, plus other programs to benefit the bay watershed. Further, the bill increases funding for conservation programs, and doubles funding for the farmland preservation program, which helps to maintain green and open spaces that are valued by urban and rural citizens alike.