Pressure's on for the Senate. Now that the Senate Ag Committee has passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill - or rather the Farm, Food and Jobs Bill - to the Senate floor ag organizations are asking for some action. With the calendar running out on the current farm bill, few want to see an extension, instead they want a new bill in place.
In a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D - Nev, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., 125 groups urged the passage of the 2012 measure. Among the groups signing on to the letter was the American Soybean Association. ASA President Steve Wellman notes that knowing the laws he'll have to live with on his Syracuse, Neb., farm is important.
In the letter, the groups say: "The stakeholders we represent need to know details of the programs which will be in effect in 2013 as soon as possible." The groups want timely action which they say will "enhance prospects for completing new legislation this year rather than needing to extend current program authorities."
"This strongly bipartisan bill ensures that agriculture does its part to reduce the deficit, cutting spending by $23 billion, while maintaining a safety net that family farmers and ranchers need," says Roger Johnson, president, National Farmers Union.
The Senate and House have some divergent issues on the cuts to be made in the farm bill. In addition, there is a disagreement in the Senate over the end of direct payments, and payment limits that impact some parts of the country more than others. Add in that there's concern that a crop insurance focused safety net may not be equitable for all crops, and there are concerns about a speedy passage.
In addition, there will be a battle over Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds. The Senate is proposing a $4.4 billion cut over the next 10 years while the House is contemplating a bill with as much as $33 billion in cuts.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has already done on record to say that the House approach won't pass. However disagreements over specific cuts and spending changes for the farm bill make passage before the fall elections a challenge. However, there is a lot of pressure to get some form of a new farm bill in place.
So far the Senate bill has been released from committee but has yet to move to the floor for full Senate debate. Meanwhile, the House is still holding hearings on its version of the bill, with several the week of May 7 aimed at fine-tuning the lawmaker's final bill.