Senate Farm Bill Includes Handful of Amendments

DC Dialogue

Total of 73 amendments debated as part of farm bill process.

Published on: June 29, 2012

The Senate approved the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act with a bipartisan showing of 64-35. The farm bill is touted as saving $23 billion, while reforming farm programs, particularly making crop insurance the cornerstone safety net, ending direct payments and consolidating conservation programs.

Senate leaders negotiated an agreement June 18 to vote on 73 of the more than 300 introduced to the bill. Senators spent three days taking votes on the amendments. Click here to view a full list of amendments.

Attempts to change the food stamp program were defeated. Specifically an amendment introduced by Sen. Kristin Gillibrand, D-N.Y., which Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow said “pillages money from crop insurance” to keep SNAP funding at current levels was voted down by a vote of 33-66.

Crop insurance was able to prevent major changes. However, an amendment to reduce the premium subsidy by 15% for any producer or entity with an average adjusted gross income in excess of $750,000 was approved. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., when introducing the amendment, said the provision would impact only 1,500 farmers nationally. Opponents however said it would drive up insurance costs for everyone.

Thursday an attempt by Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from using aerial surveillance for livestock operations failed. The amendment didn't receive the 60 votes needed to pass, but it earned the support of 56 senators, including 10 Democrats. However, a counter amendment from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., also failed which would have allowed EPA to do aerial inspections assuming it saved taxpayers money.

Tuesday Senators did vote down an amendment by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., which would have set a payment limit of $250,000 on all farm payments, including conservation. A measure introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to limit payments to no more than $75,000 on marketing loan payments was approved by a vote of 75-24.

All attempts to change the current sugar program were voted down.

An attempt to end the Conservation Security Program and Conservation Reserve Program were also unsuccessful, failing 15-84.

A measure to tie conservation compliance to crop insurance did pass. In comments ahead of the vote, Sen. Pat Roberts, R., Kan., said senators would have to “hide in their office” for weeks if they voted for the measure, which he said would be “wasteful duplication” since conservation compliance is already tied to all commodity title programs.

An amendment to slash Market Access Program funds by 20% ($40 million annually) was also voted down by a vote of 30 to 69.

A bill that would prohibit mandatory checkoffs was also voted down.

An amendment by Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., to authorize states to require mandatory labeling of biotech food products lost on a vote of 26-73.

The Senate also approved by a voice vote an amendment proposed by Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus on livestock forage grazing requirements which provides relief during drought.

Sen. Olympia Snowe’s, R-Maine, amendment calling for an analysis on the impact of Federal milk marketing orders, also was approved with a roll call vote of 66 yeas to 33 no votes. Initially a voice vote was called and it appeared the amendment would not pass, but leaders called for a roll call vote.

Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Saxby Chambliss, R- Ga., introduced an amendment to commission a pair of studies on the feasibility of insurance programs to protect America’s poultry growers from catastrophic loss, such as disease outbreaks, and from bankruptcies of poultry integrators, which passed on a voice vote.

Wednesday another amendment passed by a voice vote which called for research and extension grants may be made for the purpose of carrying out or enhancing research to improve the digestibility, nutritional value, and efficiency of use of corn, soybean meal, cereal grains, and grain byproducts for the poultry and food animal production industries.

An amendment to mandate egg housing was not part of the agreed upon amendments and did not receive floor time for a vote.