- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - All four of Mississippi’s U.S. House members voted for a farm bill on Wednesday, saying it’s not perfect but it’s a good compromise to keep agriculture and nutrition programs running for the next five years.

The bill passed the House with bipartisan support and moves to the Senate, where Mississippi’s Thad Cochran was one of the lead negotiators. President Barack Obama has said he’ll sign the bill into law.

“This important legislation culminates years of work to reform and improve agriculture policies, while reducing federal spending,” said Cochran, the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee. “I appreciate that all the members of the Mississippi delegation supported it, and I look forward to Senate approval in the next few days.”

Mississippi Farm Bureau president Randy Knight praised Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson and Republican Reps. Gregg Harper, Alan Nunnelee and Steven Palazzo for supporting the legislation.

“Without a Farm Bill, ag lenders are reluctant to issue production loans to farmers because of the great risk of a weather related crop failure and no safety net in place,” Knight said. “This Farm Bill provides that safety net.”

Ben Pentecost of Doddsville, president of the Catfish Farmers of America, praised the bill because he believes it will speed up a stalled process of having the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspect foreign-grown fish.

“They would have to pass the same health and safety standards that we do,” Pentecost said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

Thompson represents Mississippi’s 2nd District, which stretches through farming areas of the Delta. He noted that in addition to the inspection issue that’s important to catfish farmers, the bill includes money for universities’ agriculture research projects and for wildlife conservation programs.

Nunnelee, whose 1st District is in north Mississippi, said the bill “includes reforms to programs that will make them more efficient, and includes cuts to mandatory spending.”

The bill would cut about $80 million annually from the $800 billion food stamp program. The 1 percent cut is smaller than the 5 percent reduction originally sought by House Republicans, but critics had worried low-income Americans would suffer if there were larger cuts.

Palazzo, who represents the 4th District in the southern part of the state, said the bill would cut “waste, fraud and abuse” in food stamps.

Harper, whose 3rd District runs diagonally through central Mississippi, said: “Agriculture is Mississippi’s number one industry and the backbone of America’s economy. This agreement gives our farmers, ranchers, and consumers the stability they need and deserve.”


Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus

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