Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Senate to Debate Farm Bill 
Washington--The Senate is expected this week to take up the 2012 farm bill, which would eliminate direct payments to farmers and cut overall farm bill spending by more than $23 billion over 10 years.

The debate on the Senate floor could be spirited as Southern senators fight the new revenue protection program known as the Agriculture Risk Coverage program, which would supplement crop insurance and cover so-called shallow losses of 11 percent to 21 percent. Southern rice and peanut growers say the new program would not work well for them, according to CQ Today (subscription required). Meanwhile, House agriculture leaders will be watching to see how the farm bill debate goes in the Senate, according to CQ, to gauge whether it’s worthwhile to pencil in floor time for a House measure. The House Agriculture Committee has not yet released a farm bill.

There will also be disagreement between the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican House over cuts totaling $3.87 billion per year to nutrition programs, particularly the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamps. The bill also cuts conservation programs, particularly the Conservation Reserve Program, by $6.4 billion per year. Eliminating direct payments is estimated to save $9.3 billion a year in farm bill spending.

With limited time remaining before current program authorities expire, the American Farm Bureau Federation has urged Congress to pass a new farm bill as soon as possible so that farmers and ranchers and other stakeholders can known the details of the programs that will be in effect in 2013.

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