In announcement made late Tuesday night, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich, chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Ag Committee, has postponed the farm bill mark up hearing that had originally been scheduled for today. In the statement postponing the meeting, Stabenow says:
"The Agriculture Committee has made significant progress and have bipartisan agreement on the bulk of the Farm Bill. We are committed to continuing to work together in a bipartisan way as we come to agreement on a few outstanding issues. This is a bill that impacts 16 million jobs and a huge sector of America's economy, and it is important that we move prudently to create the best possible product."
Reports from a number of sources, including a Politico report overnight that a "steady drumbeat of Southern grumbling" was part of the decision to postpone the hearing. A key point of contention in the 900-page document is the end of direct payments - a significant issue for Southern rice and cotton growers.
There is also a discrepancy in the estimate of savings between what the Committee says it wants to achieve and what a report from the Congressional Budget Office says will occur over the next 10 years. The Committee estimates a $23 billion savings, while CBO notes the savings will top $26 billion in the decade.
The National Corn Growers Association issued a statement from Garry Niemeyer, president, who says: "The National Corn Growers Association is disappointed with the delay in the Senate Agriculture Committee's markup of the 2012 farm bill. Our organization is committed to working with members of Congress and other organizations on this vital piece of legislation. The process needs to be done responsibly and judiciously but it needs to be done as soon as possible."
The Senate calendar, which is fluid, has been estimated to be limited to perhaps as few as 60 working days before the election. It's not clear if a lame-duck Congress would pass a 2012 Farm Bill.
According to the statement issued, a new date and time for the rescheduled hearing will be announced shortly.