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Virginia Farm Bureau : Critical 2014 farm bill passes House, farmers pleased

01/30/2014 | 03:01pm US/Eastern

WASHINGTON-Farmers across the country are applauding the U.S. House of Representatives' passage of H.R. 2642, the five-year Agricultural Act of 2014.

The farm bill, which the House approved 251-166, now heads to the Senate, which is expected to vote on it next week.

The bill would eliminate direct payments to farmers in favor of enhanced crop insurance, revise commodity supports, and create a new dairy program and make some changes that include a cut of almost $8 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It still maintains critical food assistance to families in need. A large portion of farm bill spending is for nutritional assistance programs.

"The American Farm Bureau Federation commends the House for its passage of the new five-year farm bill," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "We are particularly pleased with provisions to provide risk management to fruit and vegetable farmers and to support livestock farmers during disasters.

"We now turn our attention to the Senate for timely passage of the bill, which will provide farmers and ranchers certainty for the coming year and allow the agriculture department to begin planning for implementation."

Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Commodity Marketing Director Spencer Neale said passage of the farm bill is important to the nation's entire food production system. "Our 2 million farmers, who provide food and fiber to more than 300 million Americans, operate in an inherently risky business environment of unpredictable weather and price volatility, and federal protections under the farm bill are an important part of ensuring a stable food supply year in and year out.

"Farm bills are not only good for farmers, they are good for all Americans."

The Agricultural Act of 2014 repeals direct payments and limits producers to risk management tools that offer protection when they suffer significant losses. The bill also repeals outdated and ineffective dairy programs and offers producers a new voluntary protection program without imposing mandatory milk supply controls.

Additionally, it provides nearly $7 billion in funding for ranchers through livestock disaster programs, conservation and research.

Recent U.S. Department of Agriculture data indicates that cattle herd inventories are nearly the lowest they have been in six decades. Disaster programs will provide relief for producers who were affected by drought and blizzards and help them to begin rebuilding their herds.

The farm bill provides retroactive payments for producers who suffered losses after the previous program expired early in October 2011. A new permanent 10-year baseline is provided for the livestock disaster programs. Those programs are estimated to provide nearly $4 billion in assistance to producers over the next decade.

The bill also continues Animal Health and Disease Research Programs, including the authorization of a new competitive grant program that will enable USDA to better focus resources on animal science priorities such as improving feed efficiency.

Additionally, it authorizes a Veterinary Services Grant program to award competitive grants to develop, implement and sustain veterinary services.

Media: Contact Neale at 804-290-1156 or Tracy Taylor Grondine, AFBF communications at 202-406-3642.

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