Farm groups and legislators were at work Tuesday ironing out agreements and positions on the next Farm Bill, focusing on crop insurance issues, hen housing standards and mark-up dates.
Action warmed up as Senate Ag Committee leaders announced they would begin mark-up of a 2013 Farm Bill on May 14, just one day before the House Ag Committee's previously announced unofficial start date of May 15.
Similar to last year, the Senate still looks for $23 billion in savings from Farm Bill changes, while the House is aiming for $38 billion – $3 billion more than last year, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
Ag groups draft crop insurance compromise
With action on the 2013 Farm Bill really starting to move, a group of 44 conservation and ag organizations said Tuesday they have reached an agreement linking conservation compliance and crop insurance.
Under the agreement's recommendations, crop insurance would continue to be available to help farmers manage their risks and meet the requirements of their lenders. But under certain circumstances, if a farmer is found to be out of compliance with conservation mandates, his or her eligibility for premium assistance would be eliminated until compliance conditions are satisfied, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, a signatory on the agreement.
The group also opposes means testing, payment limitations or premium subsidy reductions for the crop insurance program.
The recommendations have been sent to both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees.
"It is no secret that much of agriculture fought the compliance amendment during last year's Senate debate on the farm bill," said Bob Stallman, AFBF president. "But our desire to avoid a time-consuming and contentious debate with our long-standing partners on workable environmental stewardship programs helped build a consensus around rational provisions that protect farmers while furthering the conservation of natural resources."
According to the agreement, the groups signing on agreed to not support amendments beyond the compromise that might weaken crop insurance program, or amendments that might not link conservation compliance with crop insurance premium assistance.
Farm Bill won't include 'Egg Bill'
Also Tuesday, National Cattlemen's Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs Collin Woodall noted that a bill to establish a national standard for hen housing and the labeling of eggs has been eliminated for consideration as part of the Farm Bill.
The "egg bill" as some call it, is the product of an agreement between the United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States.