The Senate Agriculture Committee Tuesday approved a 2013 Farm Bill with relatively few changes from the chairwoman's mark, first released last week. It is expected to offer $23 billion in deficit reduction.
The bill ends direct payments and offers disaster assistance measures while cutting $4 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program through waste-control measures. The bill also consolidates conservation programs and duplicative programs.
"We saw last year undeniable proof that farming is the riskiest business in the country," Stabenow said, "this is why the Farm Bill is so important."
Senators sparred over the commodity title, which raises target prices for various commodities. Sen. Thune proposed an amendment to remove all crops but rice and peanuts from the new Adverse Market Payment program.
The program, which retains 2008 target prices for all commodity crops but rice and peanuts, Thune said, is a "step backwards to an old, outdated policy." The amendment amounts to about $1 billion in savings over ten years, Thune noted.
Sen. Pat Roberts similarly noted concerns about the World Trade Organization considering the high target prices of rice and peanuts to be trade distorting.
"That's a big red flag for me," Roberts said. "Why should the two commodities dictate that all others have to have target prices when we don't want them?"
Roberts went on to note that the target prices, also known as counter-cyclical payments – which did not appear in last year's Senate bill – will create a situation where "farmers farm for the government."
Southern senator and new Committee Ranking Member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who worked to prepare the program, opposed the amendment, which ultimately failed by voice vote.