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Farm Bill Gains Congressional Traction

Whether you call it the Agriculture Reform Food and Jobs Act (S 3240) or the Federal Agricultural Reform and Risk Management Act (HR 6083), what most people just refer to as “The Farm Bill” is moving closer to enactment this year.

The Senate has completed its work by approving S 3240 on June 21st. The House is moving forward and has passed HR 6083 out of the Agriculture Committee and has sent the measure to the Floor for consideration (no date has been set as yet for Floor debate).

The bills are similar in content for areas of interest to state drinking water programs with certain modifications in how funding is allocated. Both bills consider conservation measures under Title II and rural development initiatives under Title VI. The list below highlights both the similarities and differences.

Title II – Conservation

  • Both bills contain language to fund “grassroots source water protection” programs. The House funds the program at $20M for FYs 13-17 while the Senate allocates only $15M for the same funding period.
  • Both bills continue to support the Small Watershed Rehabilitation Program. The House authorizes $250M for FY 13 and allows funds to continue to be available until expended. The Senate authorizes $85M through FY 17.

Title VI – Rural Development

  • Both bills include funding for the rural water and wastewater circuit rider program. The House allocates $20M for FY 13 and following years. The Senate funding level is $25M for the same period.
  • Both bills provide for grants to nonprofit organizations to finance “construction, refurbishing and servicing of individually owned household water well systems in rural areas for individuals with low or moderate incomes.” The House provides $5M/year for FYs 13-17. The Senate authorizes $30M for FYs 13-17.
  • Both bills call for a streamlining of the loan and grant application process. The House even specifies a preference for a one page application for grant and relending programs.

ASDWA will continue to monitor the progress of this measure. The current Farm Bill expires on September 30. At most, there are only a dozen legislative days left in this fiscal year. It will remain to be seen whether Congress can act quickly enough on this legislation.