WASHINGTON – Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02) stood up for farmers and rural communities in voting against the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Act because it unfairly targeted the agriculture community. If signed into law, the bill would make draconian cuts to agriculture research programs, rural development programs and assistance for seniors and pregnant mothers who go hungry. The bill barely passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 217 to 203.
Rep. Bishop helped lead the effort on the House floor to defeat several amendments that would have done great harm to the support programs for Georgia farmers and ranchers. Two separate amendments attempted to cut the adjusted gross income test for all farmers to $125,000 or $250,000 from the current level of $750,000 despite the comprehensive and far-reaching reforms to eligibility and limitations included in the 2008 Farm Bill.
In speaking on the floor, Rep. Bishop made clear that farmers in the Southeast grow a wider variety of crops than in other regions of the country, and rely on crop specific equipment that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. If these farmers were limited to $125,000 or $250,000, they would not be able to service the debt for their equipment, pay other expenses and stay in business.
In speaking against the amendments, Rep. Bishop said, “A stable and predictable farm policy is essential for farmers who must secure financing for annual production costs as well as incur long-term debt for equipment and land. [This] amendment will seriously undermine the confidence farmers and their lenders have in the predictability of farm policy. The result will be a reluctance to make investments in equipment and practices that increase productivity of U.S. farms and help meet world food and fiber demand.”
H.R. 2112, the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012 provides a total of $125.5 billion in both mandatory and discretionary funding for Agriculture programs. The bill cut agriculture research programs by 14%, slashed rural development programs by 14%, and cut the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which serves predominantly low-income seniors by 21%.
The bill also cut $686 million from the WIC program, and provides only $171.9 million for the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, close to 50% less than the amount requested by the Administration, to regulate the financial derivatives that many believe helped cause the global financial crisis.
Rep. Bishop spoke on the House Floor in support of an amendment that would prohibit the FDA from using funds to create a rule that restricts the use of one substance or compound and requires that any decision made be based on hard science, stating, “We have cotton and peanuts and pecans in my district. We also have poultry. We have pork. We have cattle operations. The decisions of the FDA have an enormous impact on the farmers in my district at many levels. Many of the producers in my district are worried about some of the conclusions that FDA seems to have reached regarding antibiotics. They are worried about what will come next… If there is scientific evidence that shows that current practices are not in the interest of public health, my farmers will of course change their practices. But there must be clear evidence. Not unnecessary regulation.”
Another amendment singled out cotton farmers while ignoring other commodities with virtually identical programs. If adopted the amendment would have done great damage to cotton farmers in the United States. The amendment tried to modify the cotton program by eliminating counter-cyclical payments, prohibiting loan deficiency payments, and prohibiting storage payments.
Rep. Bishop joined his colleagues in opposition to the amendment, and during debate on the House Floor, he said, “Cotton farmers understand the current budget pressures, but expect to be a part of a debate involving all agricultural stakeholders; not to be singled out for ad hoc budget reductions and hasty policy decisions.”
Rep. Bishop added, “[The] amendment compromises agricultural policy that has been vetted by authorizing committees and relied upon by growers and lenders in making business decisions into 2012. The reauthorization of the farm bill in 2012 is the proper forum to debate cotton agricultural policy, not here on this appropriations bill. We have to do what is right, and this is not the time or the place to pull the rug out from underneath our cotton farmers.”
The bill now moves to the Senate for its consideration.