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Begich Proposes Amendments to Farm Bill to Increase Transparency, Fight for Alaska Priorities

Begich Amendments Would Help Rural Communities, Ban Frankenfish

As the Senate continues debate today on the proposed Farm Bill, U.S. Senator Mark Begich introduced several amendments that take a balanced approach to reducing wasteful spending and increasing transparency while preserving critical investments to keep Alaska’s economy strong.

Begich’s amendments would save millions in potential taxpayer dollars, remove bureaucratic obstacles for tribes, reauthorize the Denali Commission, prevent the sale of genetically modified salmon, and reduce regulatory roadblocks by using traditional Alaska subsistence foods at community facilities.   

“The Farm Bill includes a lot of critical programs that many of us support, but that doesn’t mean we cannot also identity opportunities to increase transparency and root out waste,” said Begich.  

The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, better known as the Farm Bill, would set policy for national agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry policy for the next five years. The bill is very similar to one that was approved in the Senate last year with strong bipartisan support but didn’t pass the House. Farmers and federal agencies are currently operating on a temporary extension that Congress passed in January of 2013.     

"I am pleased this year’s Farm Bill will save an estimated $23.6 billion, but we need better oversight of taxpayer dollars across the board,” said Begich. “Demanding greater transparency of payouts and improved oversight of programs like the FCC Universal Fund to ensure fairness for Alaskans are good first steps.”

Begich will also hold a press conference tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. EST/11:30 a.m. AKST to discuss the Crop Insurance Transparency amendment which will potentially save millions of dollars by bringing greater transparency to the $9 billion-dollar-a year, government funded crop insurance subsidy program.

More About Begich’s Individual Amendments:

Bring Transparency to Crop Insurance Subsidies

Begich’s amendment would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to disclose who benefits from premium support for the federal crop insurance program. While there is transparency in other farm subsidy programs the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA), the agency that oversees the crop insurance subsidy program, is not currently permitted to disclose which farmers receive premium support. (#936)

Reauthorize the Denali Commission

This amendment would reauthorize the Denali Commission, which for nearly a generation has worked to improve living conditions and quality of life in rural Alaska.  (#954)

Ban Frankenfish

This amendment makes it illegal to produce, sell or ship genetically-engineered salmon in the U.S. unless the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration finds it would have no significant impact. (#934)

Expand Rural Teacher Housing

Begich’s amendment would ease the challenge of recruiting teachers, law enforcement professionals and doctors to rural communities due to substandard housing by providing resources to build housing and improve living arrangements for these professionals. (#937)

Clarify the Definition of “Tribe” for USDA Programs
This proposal provides a consistent definition of the term “Indian Tribe” within the Farm Bill freestanding language to avoid confusion regarding eligibility for various agriculture and food programs. (#935)

Improve Oversight of FCC Universal Service Fund

This amendment requires the Comptroller General of the United States to submit a report to Congress on the effectiveness of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Universal Service Fund (USF) reforms. (#943)

Permit Traditional Subsistence Foods in Public Facilities

This amendment allows traditional and subsistence foods, an important part of Alaska Native culture, to be donated and served in public facilities such as long term elder care facilities, hospitals, and schools. (#974)

Strengthen Alaska Seafood Marketing

Providing a long-term and sustainable source of funds for marketing, this amendment would create a National Seafood Marketing Fund to level the playing field for American seafood products that are increasingly forced to compete in the worldwide market. (#933)

Provide Tax Breaks for Alaska Sportsmen

Based on a bill introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-AK), this amendment would enable hunters who donate meat to food-based charities to be eligible for a tax deduction for the processing cost of their wild game. Additionally, it would provide a tax credit for processors who take part in this program. (#932)

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