Senators Say Senate Bill Slights Southern Farmers, Offers Insufficient Protection

June 21, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today voted against the 2012 farm bill because it was not modified enough to make it more equitable to crops grown predominately in Southern states.

The Senate on Thursday approved the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (S.3240) on a 64-35 vote without the support of Mississippi’s U.S. Senators.  The Senate-passed farm bill is a five-year reauthorization of federal agriculture, food assistance and rural development programs that will cost nearly $1 trillion over 10 years.

“Mississippi is fortunate to have some of the most fertile soil in the world, and agriculture remains the cornerstone of our state’s economy.  Unfortunately, farmers across the South will suffer a disproportionate loss of support under the bill the Senate adopted,” said Cochran, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee.  “I had hoped that reasonable modifications could be made to ensure the farm bill provides fair producer options to all regions of the country.  The one-size-fits-all approach in the Senate bill places unfair burdens on some crops and regions, and puts them at a distinct disadvantage for investing in rural infrastructure and agriculture-related jobs.”

“Americans depend on access to quality agricultural products produced by Mississippi’s farmers,” said Wicker.  “The bill before the Senate today failed to recognize the realities faced by southern producers.  I remain hopeful that a workable solution can be reached for all of America’s farmers as this process continues.”

S.3240 eliminates direct payment and counter-cyclical farm programs, and creates an Agriculture Risk Coverage revenue insurance program that will pose problems for many agriculture producers in the South.  The ARC program will not sufficiently protect rice and other regional crops from price volatilities that pose less of a risk for commodities sustained by other government policies, such as renewable energy mandates.  As such, the Senate bill does not afford these producers sufficient protection against long term, systemic price declines.

“With planting decisions already being distorted by policies outside of the farm bill, it is even more imperative that farm bill policy not further incentivize commodity production in certain regions at the expense of others,” Cochran said.”

Cochran and Wicker indicated that they are hopeful that an acceptable 2012 farm bill might be achieved through conference committee negotiations to reconcile differences between the Senate-passed bill and legislation being crafted in the House of Representatives.