Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., anticipates the farm bill passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee will move to the Senate floor this week for full debate, she said in a press call with reporters Monday.
The Senate Farm Bill (Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act) ends direct payments and instead protects farmers from substantial losses with an Agriculture Risk Coverage shallow-loss program. The proposed bill is said to save taxpayers $23 billion while strengthening and streamlining programs. The bill was adopted by the Committee last month on a vote of 16-5, with broad bipartisan support. Stabenow said the mere 4.5 hour committee markup of the bill was the “shortest markup in history of the committee,” and she said she hopes a similar straightforward approach can be applied when it comes to the Senate floor.
Stabenow expects to easily have the 60 needed votes to avoid cloture if needed. In the Senate many amendments can be proposed and she recognized many different kinds of amendments could be introduced. She added the leadership will want to be fair, but at the same time wants to get a bill done and will do whatever is possible if someone wants to obstruct that process.
Stabenow said she anticipates debate on the bill for two to three weeks.
Rice and peanut growers had been lukewarm to the proposed ARC program. A new analysis shows that had ARC been in place in the past, the program would be effective in protecting farmers from losses, and that the program is fair for all commodities, Stabenow said.
Stabenow admitted that it is “common knowledge” that House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas has a “different approach” than the Senate on the handling of the bill and that those differences could be worked out in conference committee.
Monday the American Farm Bureau Federation also sent a letter to Senate ag leaders outlining some of its concerns about the Senate’s farm bill version. Specifically some of the areas Farm Bureau believes would benefit from additional policy work includes addressing the net effect of the Agriculture Risk Coverage Eligible Acres provisions to ensure a true “planted acres” approach and avoid recreating “base acres” issues that have raised equity and planting distortion concerns; and re-instituting current payment limitations and the Adjusted Gross Income provisions in current law. The Farm Bureau has actively been opposed to a shallow-loss program and instead has advocated a deep-loss program that does a better job of covering catastrophic losses (see related blog posting).
“Fundamentally, Farm Bureau continues to support a single program option for the commodity title that extends to all crops,” wrote AFBF President Bob Stallman. “We believe the safety net should be comprised of a strong crop insurance program, with continuation of the marketing loan program and a catastrophic revenue loss program based on county level losses for each crop.
Stallman said that after recently analyzing numbers from the Congressional Budget Office, Farm Bureau now believes it is possible to provide support at the 80 percent revenue level of coverage for all program crops and five fruits and vegetables, instead of a more limited group of crops at a lower revenue level, as AFBF originally proposed.
Media reports indicate that the House Agriculture Committee will markup its version of the farm bill during the week of June 18. The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will be marking up its agriculture appropriations bill Wednesday, June 6.