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“…I will continue to work to ensure the viability of U.S. agriculture with the interests of producers and consumers living and working in our area in mind…”
The need for agriculture

The farming and ranching industry plays an important role in the 13th District producing over $5.8 billion in agricultural products each year.  Our area is number one in Texas for cattle, hogs, wheat, and corn.  We are also a leader in cotton, dairy, and forage.  Agriculture is one of the major lifelines of our country, and our hard-working producers are an integral part in maintaining our nation’s food and fiber supply.
2014 Farm Bill

About every five years, Congress debates legislation governing our nation’s federal farm and food policy, known as the Farm Bill. The commodity programs in the 2008 Farm Bill represent less than one-quarter of one percent of the federal budget. The 2008 Farm Bill already made a number of significant changes to the 2002 Farm Bill that, as a result, are providing predictable commodity support while costing taxpayers less than originally anticipated.

On January 29, 2014, the House passed a new five year Farm Bill by a vote of 251 to 166. I voted for the bill. This measure makes major reforms in agriculture programs and reduces spending by $14 billion. It gives farmers, ranchers, and their lenders the certainty they need to plan for the future in the face of market volatility and difficult weather.

For the past 40 years, the Farm Bill included agricultural programs as well as nutrition programs, such as food stamps.  The view has been that this combination was needed to get a bill passed as fewer and fewer Americans earn their living in agriculture.

Food Stamp Reforms

The Agricultural Act of 2014 makes the first reforms to the food stamp program since the welfare reforms of 1996 while maintaining critical food assistance to families in need.

The Agricultural Act of 2014: 

  • Closes the “heat-and-eat” loophole that artificially increases benefit levels when states provide nominal LIHEAP assistance.
  • Establishes a 10-state pilot to empower states to engage able-bodied adults in mandatory work programs.
  • Prohibits USDA from engaging in SNAP recruitment activities, and advertising SNAP on TV, radio, billboards and through foreign governments.
  • Ensures illegal immigrants, lottery winners, traditional college students, and the deceased do not receive benefits.
  • Ensures SNAP recipients are not receiving benefits in multiple states.
  • Prevents abuses such as water dumping to exchange bottles for cash.
  • Demands outcomes from existing employment and training programs.
  • Prohibits states from manipulating SNAP benefit levels by eliminating medical marijuana as an allowable medical expense.
  • Allows states to pursue retailer fraud through a pilot investigation program and crack down on trafficking through data mining, terminal ID, and other measures; and increases assistance for food banks.

Additional Reforms & Regulatory Relief

The Agricultural Act of 2014:

  • Consolidates 23 duplicative and overlapping conservation programs into 13.
  • Provides one year of full funding for the Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which provides funding for vital services in communities containing federal lands.  
  • Provides certainty to the forest products industry by clarifying that forest roads and related silvicultural activities should not be treated as a point source under the Clean Water Act.  
  • Creates a permanent subcommittee within the EPA Science Advisory Board to conduct peer review of EPA actions that would negatively impact agriculture.
  • Enhances coordination between USDA, EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) regarding the conflict between laws governing pesticide use and the Endangered Species Act.
  • Enhances coordination between USDA and the U.S.
  • FWS regarding actions taken to manage the lesser prairie chicken.  
  • Eliminates duplicative reporting requirements for seed importers; requires improved economic analysis of FDA regulations.
For more information on the 2014 Farm Bill, please click here.

Keeping open markets for agricultural trade

According to estimates by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States provides the third-lowest amount of government policy-generated support to its agricultural sector among OECD countries.

The American people can and do reap tremendous benefits from trade, especially our agriculture industry. Texas alone is the fourth-largest exporter of agricultural commodities in the United States. Maintaining free and open markets is essential to allowing our producers to sell products across the globe. 

However, I believe that we should also work towards leveling the playing field for our producers. The most important aspect of U.S. trade agreements is that we are placed on equal footing with other countries. We need to be active participants in the global economy, and I will continue to work to give our producers at home the best opportunity to compete.

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