WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a member of the Farm Bill Conference Committee, today said he will oppose the Farm Bill Conference Report because it is not market-oriented or forward looking and is too costly for the taxpayer.
“I am disappointed to say that the negatives of this Farm Bill outweigh the positives,” Roberts said. “When you look at the policies of this report, we have a return to government subsidies and farmers planting for the government. While we all want to provide certainty to producers, the conference has missed an opportunity for greater and necessary reforms to our nation’s farm programs, federal nutrition programs, and burdensome regulations. I cannot march backwards and deliver more spending, more regulations and more waste.”
Roberts again reiterated concerns with the new target price program or Price Loss Coverage Program (PLC).
“The new Price Loss Coverage Program repeats a classic government subsidy mistake – setting high fixed target prices – which only guarantees overproduction with long periods of low crop prices, leading to expensive farm programs funded by the taxpayers,” Roberts said. “This program simply creates planting and marketing distortions, instead of letting our producers respond to the free market and decide their crops based on supply and demand.”
The Senator also noted that amber box subsidy programs open American agriculture to global trade disputes – which the U.S. has already lost and will likely lose again if challenged. “After the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled against the United States for our Cotton programs – I thought we all had learned a lesson,” Roberts said.
Senator Roberts has been an outspoken advocate for restoring integrity to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the Nutrition Title of the Farm Bill. SNAP makes up more than 80 percent of the Department of Agriculture’s budget and was previously exempted from across the board sequestration cuts. Roberts has introduced legislation to save the taxpayer $36 billion while working to ensure the neediest still receive SNAP benefits.
“What we have today is a ballooning and expensive set of federal nutrition programs with a patchwork of eligibility standards, loopholes, and frankly unneeded give-a-ways to state governments,” Roberts said. “I understand and sympathize with the need for nutrition assistance for hardworking families. However, we cannot box off SNAP from necessary and timely reforms.”
Roberts went on to say, “While the bill merely shrinks the LIHEAP Loophole and includes voluntary work requirement pilot programs, the report effectively allows spending on billions in waste and abuse to continue.”
Finally, Senator Roberts found the regulatory title lacking critical and bipartisan reforms that address regulatory overreach and the costs to farmers and ranchers.
Specifically the report does little to address livestock producer concerns with mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). The report also ignores another regulatory relief provision that was already cleared by the full House and the Senate Agriculture Committee, which would end duplicative National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) pesticide permits required by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Each of these issues had bipartisan support, yet they were all left on the conference cutting room floor,” Roberts said. “I am shocked how far some members will go to protect this administration’s regulations and not the general public.”
“I do appreciate the inclusion of strong crop insurance provisions, livestock disaster programs, and agriculture research,” Roberts concluded, “This bill has been a tipping point between forward thinking policies and backwards protectionist programs. Producers and consumers demand better, our global trading partners and competitors expect more, and US taxpayers deserve better than this conference report. I did not sign the conference report and cannot in good conscious vote for this legislation.”
Senator Roberts is senior member and former Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. In 2012, the full Senate passed a bipartisan Farm Bill introduced by then Ranking Member Roberts and Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) that eliminated target prices and contained forward looking reforms to agriculture programs. He is the first member of Congress in history to serve as both Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and Ranking of the Senate Agriculture Committee.