By Jennifer Montgomery
Late last week, we were advised by Agriculture Committee staff that the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees had reached a tentative agreement on a 2012 Farm Bill proposal to be submitted to the Super Committee for consideration in the deficit reduction deliberations. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS), had been working alongside House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) to proactively come up with a Farm Bill proposal to cut $23 billion dollars out of the agriculture budget over the next 10 years. WineAmerica, along with other members of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, had been working to try to ensure that critical specialty crop programs were protected as much as possible during this process.
While we did not see any legislative language at that time, some information on specialty crop programs was released. Under that tentative proposal, priority specialty crop programs would have faired well, under the circumstances:
· Blocks grants would have been funded at $70 million per year (up from $55 million).
o They included a multi-state component that will be used to enhance multi-state projects.
o They added acres to the calculation of how funding would allocated to each state.
· The Pest and Disease Title would have been funded at $60 million for the first two years and $65 million thereafter (current is $50 million).
o It would have rolled the Clean Plant Network into section 10201 of the Pest & Disease Title.
· It would have provided $400 million over 10 years for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) and would have protected the baseline for those 10 years, so the program would not have been truncated.
· The Value-Added Producer Grant program would have received $15 million in mandatory money, which is the current funding level in the 2008 Farm Bill.
But in light of the collapse of the Super Committee’s efforts, this proposal is not on the table and the general expectation is that the 2012 Farm Bill will now be written and considered in regular order, the way previous Farm Bills have been developed.
Given the hard work and bi-partisan cooperation that went into the creation of the proposal, WineAmerica considers it to be a good first step and it is hoped that it will serve as the foundation of the upcoming Farm Bill process – whatever that process turns out to be.