Cochran withholding support of 2012 Farm Bill

WASHINGTON — Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) says he is disappointed with the 2012 Farm Bill approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee and is withholding his support for the measure due to inadequate coverage for important crops produced in Mississippi.

Cochran, who serves on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee and is a former chairman of the panel, was among five senators who voted against adopting the 2012 Farm Bill, preferring to allow the committee to resolve problematic provisions that would adversely affect cotton, rice, peanuts and other crops. The bill passed on a 16-5 vote.

“It is difficult for me to withhold support for a Farm Bill, but I cannot support this bill,” Cochran said. “I think we have much more work to do before we reach a consensus on a farm support bill that can be approved by a majority of the Senate. I hope we have an opportunity to offer amendments that have a chance of strengthening the bill, particularly as it relates to Southern interests. Specifically, cotton, rice and peanuts need more of a break than what they have received in this bill.”

Cochran said the chairman’s mark approved by the committee is problematic because it would repeal all current commodity support programs and institute a single revenue program that does not provide equal coverage for all crops. For example, baseline funding for rice production is decreased by roughly 70 percent, a significantly disproportionate reduction compared to many other commodities. Rice and peanut production would effectively be left without a reasonable form of price protections.

Cochran noted that the 2012 Farm Bill includes his amendment to reauthorize a competitive rural health care services grant program for the Mississippi River Delta. Initially created in the 2008 Farm Bill, the program is designed to address health needs by supporting health care services, education, job training and public health-related facilities. The Cochran amendment would authorize an annual $3.0 million appropriation for FY2013 through FY2017.

The senator also supported inclusion of a crop insurance provision authorizing research and development of a policy to insure freshwater catfish producers against reductions in the margin between the market value of catfish and selected costs incurred in production.

The overall measure is a five-year reauthorization of federal agriculture and nutrition programs regarding crop insurance, commodities, conservation, trade, research, forestry, energy, rural development, horticulture, nutrition and livestock. The 2012 Farm Bill would reduce spending by roughly $24 billion over the next 10 years, according to a preliminary review by the Congressional Budget Office.

The bill is now available for consideration by the full Senate.

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