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Wisconsin Reps. Split on 'House' Farm Bill Vote
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 01/30/2014

Four of Wisconsin's eight Congressional representatives voted in favor of the latest version of the farm bill on Wednesday. GOP Rep. Reid Ribble, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, along with fellow Republicans Paul Ryan, Sean Duffy and Tom Petri were among the lawmakers that cast 'yes' votes on the Agricultural Act of 2014. Jim Sensenbrenner broke with party lines and voted no, along with Democrats Ron Kind, Mark Pocan and Gwen Moore. The final vote was 251-166.

"While far from perfect, the 2014 farm bill will save taxpayers $23 billion from the previous farm bill," Ribble said. "The bill eliminates direct payments to farmers who were previously paid regardless of market conditions, and this bill repeals or consolidates nearly 100 additional programs. It also tightens loopholes in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program while targeting program benefits to those most in need."

The Appleton Congressman also said he was pleased with the significant dairy policy reforms included in the legislation. The bill offers dairy farmers a voluntary margin insurance program that will help farmers manage risk and will work well for Wisconsin dairy farmers of all sizes. And the measure provides risk management tools and safety net provisions for grain, livestock, dairy and fruit and vegetable growers.

"This is good news for an agriculturally diverse state like Wisconsin," said Wisconsin Farm Bureau President Jim Holte. "In regards to dairy, we are pleased this farm bill compromise offers the most significant reform to federal dairy policy in a generation. This reform comes in the way of giving dairy farmers whether or not to participate in a safety net program in times of volatile milk prices."

Meanwhile, Kind held a teleconference with reporters right when the vote was taking place. He blasted the policy for several reasons, including billions in cuts to the nutrition title. And he doesn't like the fact that it fails to limit the amount of farm payments a particular operation can be eligible for.

"Worse yet, this bill does nothing to reform the bloated crop insurance program," Kind said. "The program will continue to indirectly subsidize, on average, 62-percent of farmers' crop insurance premiums, reimburse insurance companies for their administrative and operating expenses, adjust premiums in order to produce a 14-percent return for crop insurance companies, and take the riskiest crop insurance policies off the companies' books."

He was also displeased with fellow lawmakers for continuing to send nearly $150 million each year to support the Brazilian cotton industry.

Other provisions in the bill would provide incentives for growers to expand fruit and vegetable production for processing; help the growing organic sector to take important steps forward through research and certification programs; and reauthorizes the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and the Specialty Crop Block Grant program.

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