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House farm bill highlights

The Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy Act of 2007 passed by the House of Representatives includes the following:

• Re-authorizes direct payments for the 2008 through 2012 crop years at the same levels established in the 2002 farm bill. Producers could request a single 22 percent advance payment each year.

• Re-authorizes counter-cyclical payments and establishes target prices for covered commodities for the 2008 through 2012 crop years. The proposal specifies an upland cotton target price of 70 cents per pound, 2.4 cents less than the target price in the 2002 farm bill.

• Authorizes the establishment of a new revenue counter-cyclical program for the 2008 through 2012 crop years and provides producers a one-time choice between participating in the current counter-cyclical program or the new RCCP on farms for which base acres and payment yields are established.

• Re-authorizes non-recourse loans for loan commodities for the 2008 through 2012 crop years. The proposal leaves the loan rate for base quality upland cotton at 52 cents per pound.

• Makes changes to the cotton loan, including adjustments to the calculation of the Adjusted World Price designed to make U.S. cotton more competitive in the world market, authorizing payments to domestic users of cotton, and the proposed elimination of upland cotton storage credits in 2012.

• Reduces the Adjusted Gross Income limit for farm bill benefits to $1 million per year. Further, no person with an adjusted gross income of greater than $500,000 per year may receive any commodity or conservation payment under the farm bill, unless 67 percent or more of the adjusted gross income is derived from farming, ranching, or forestry.

• Requires direct attribution of farm program payments. Total benefits paid to a person may not exceed the established limits and will be subject to complete transparency, with all payments to a person tracked to his or her Social Security number.

• Limits direct and counter-cyclical payments so that no person may receive more than $125,000 per year, including no more than $60,000 per year in direct payments and no more than $65,000 per year in counter-cyclical payments.

• Repeals generic certificates and instead directly authorizes a person to receive a basic level of marketing loan assistance or loan deficiency payments on all of his crop.

It would also:

• Invest more than $1.6 billion in priorities to strengthen and support the fruit and vegetable industry in the United States. A new section for horticulture and organic agriculture includes nutrition, research, pest management and trade promotion programs.

• Implement mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for fruit, vegetables and meat.

• Expand the USDA Snack Program, which helps schools provide healthy snacks to students during after-school activities to all 50 states and continuing the DOD Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides a variety of fresh produce to schools.

• Strengthen and enhance the food stamp program by reforming benefit rules to improve coverage of food costs and expand access to the program with additional funding support.

• Include key provisions that invest in rural communities nationwide, including economic development programs and access to broadband telecommunication services.

• Extend and make new investments in conservation programs, including the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentive Program, Farm and Ranchland Protection Program and others.

• Make new investments in renewable energy research, development and production in rural America.

• Establish a new National Agriculture Research Program Office to coordinate the programs and activities of USDA’s research agencies to minimize duplication and maximize coordination at all levels and creates a competitive grants program.

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