Sen. Ag Committee Passes 2012 Farm Bill, with Key Bennet Amendments

On April 26, the Senate Agricultural Committee passed the 2012 Farm Bill, including key amendments backed by Colorado’s Senator Michael Bennet. CWF applauds Senator Bennet and these measures to help farmers, ranchers, sportsmen and other conservationists.

Here is the press release issued by Senator Bennet:


Bennet-Backed Measures Including Improved Conservation Programs, Crop Insurance, Focus on Water Quantity Retained in Bill

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today joined his colleagues in the Senate Agriculture Committee in reporting the 2012 Farm Bill out of the Senate Committee on Agriculture. The bill includes several Bennet-backed provisions and amendments aimed at helping Colorado farmers, ranchers and sportsmen. The bill passed with broad, bipartisan support and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

œI have heard from Coloradans from Wray to Cortez, and from Lamar to Meeker that they need a Farm Bill that works better, addresses the issues that affect them most and builds upon the progress being made in our rural communities, said Bennet, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. œThe Senate Agriculture Committee has put forward a bipartisan bill that will save taxpayer dollars, adds efficiency and provides support and certainty for producers, small business entrepreneurs, and community food organizations continuing the important work of feeding our country. The bill reported out of committee today will also increase access for Colorado hunters and anglers and support our recreation-based economy.

œI will continue to work for swift passage of the bill, so Colorado farmers and ranchers have the certainty and security that they need to plan for the future.

Steven Kline, director of the Center for Agricultural & Private Lands at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said, œThe Farm Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation for sportsmen across the country. Thanks in no small part to Senator Bennet’s work on the Agriculture Committee, the Senate version of the 2012 Farm Bill now boasts more resources for the Voluntary Public Access program, the only federal program designed to increase economically important recreational access to private lands in states like Colorado. Senator Bennet was also instrumental in the inclusion of a robust Sodsaver provision in the Committee mark. Because of the leadership of Chairwoman Stabenow, Ranking Member Roberts, and Committee members like Senator Bennet, this Farm Bill accomplishes good things for hunters and anglers and the fish and wildlife habitat they depend on.

In response to the input he received at more than 20 Farm Bill listening sessions he held across the state, Bennet introduced and cosponsored several key provisions and pushed important changes to current agriculture and conservation policies.

During today’s hearing, the amendments Bennet secured were:

  • An amendment Bennet introduced that includes water quantity as a focus for the new Regional Conservation Partnerships Program.
  • An amendment Bennet introduced that would increase resources for the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program. Voluntary Public Access”a priority for Colorado’s sportsmen”encourages the owners of privately-held farm, ranch and forest land to voluntarily make their land available for public access through grants to already existing state and tribal governments.
  • A package of Farm Bill energy programs Bennet cosponsored that includes the Rural Energy Savings Program (RESPA) Act, which Bennet helped introduce last Congress. RESPA would allow the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to authorize low interest loans for rural homeowners and small businesses to do energy efficiency retrofits.  Last Congress, Bennet used his first hearing as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy, Science and Technology to hear testimony on this bill.
  • An amendment Bennet cosponsored that would eliminate federal subsidy support on new cropland acres that are put into production as a result of breaking grassland that had no previous cropping history (also known as œsodsaver). This provision is supported by Colorado sportsmen as key policy to protect important wildlife habitat.

The bill retained measures Bennet fought to include prior to today’s hearing. It strengthens the federal crop insurance program by improving the way crop insurance functions for producers with consecutive years of losses and expanding the kinds of crops that are covered under the program. Bennet has repeatedly pushed for strengthening this program in Agriculture Committee hearings because he heard from Coloradans that crop insurance is their top risk-management priority. The federal crop insurance program helps to protect producers against crop yield and revenue losses due to adverse weather events or pests.

It renews the programs that govern our national agriculture, nutrition, conservation and forestry policy. The 2008 Farm Bill expires on September 30, 2012.

The 2012 Farm Bill draft reforms farm policy, consolidates and streamlines programs and would reduce the deficit by $23 billion.

Last month, Bennet led six members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation in sending a letter to the leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees calling on them to advance and pass a Farm Bill in 2012. Bennet has also been involved in negotiating and drafting the 2012 Farm Bill.

Bennet also recently led a bipartisan letter to Senate Appropriators calling for strong and robust funding for Farm Bill conservation programs.