Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) today indicated the Senate Ag Committee could get started on an omnibus farm bill as early as the end of March if agreement can be reached on some key areas — notably the commodity title.
The rescheduling of two farm bill hearings for earlier in March make this possible, according to Stabenow, as this gives the panel flexibility to take up the legislation and time for negotiation following the hearings. "I would expect and hope that within a few weeks after the hearings, we would be in markup," Stabenow said.
The Senate's farm bill markup would likely be completed in April, according to Congressional sources, with markup sessions for both the Senate and House Ag panels likely to be wrapped up by the July Fourth Recess.
Stabenow also pointed out that House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) might not have much leeway for negotiations with her on a farm bill if the House adopts a budget resolution similar to the Fiscal Year 2012 resolution. The 2012 resolution called for signficant reductions for agriculture and nutrition programs over 10 years.
The chairwoman also warned that an extension of the current bill for months or a year would be spendy as she says the House is likely to want spending cuts for food stamps/SNAP in exchange for such an extension.