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Key Issues in Today's Senate Ag Committee Farm Bill Markup

April 26, 2012
By: Jim Wiesemeyer, Pro Farmer Washington Consultant

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Final vote count important for coming Senate floor timeline, vote


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


The following are key topics to be monitored regarding today's farm bill markup session, which begins at 10:30 a.m. ET:

  • Manager's amendment: Some key surprises have slipped into some prior installments, including efforts to soothe opponents and attract more votes.

 

  • Final vote: Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) wants an adequate bipartisan vote to help Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to schedule floor time for the omnibus package. But contacts signal there are questions of whether the bill, as modified, has the votes to pass, with serious equity issues looming that concern both northern and southern senators. There is also no Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score of some of the changes, which may complicate markup. A divided vote would spell trouble for Senate passage. But one Senate contact said, "Those that say it doesn’t have the votes to pass are poor vote counters. They are probably the same ones that thought target prices or cost of production caps could pass the committee."

  • North-South coalition? The 2008 Farm Bill brought a surprising coalition of North, South members, led by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). That was apparently being tried again during Wednesday developments. But if the northern senators do not get want they were pushing for, they may not vote for the markup package.

  • Northern-states senators get their way? Besides Conrad, Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) were pushing for some changes to the Ag Risk Coverage (ARC) that would result in more to a lot more spending. The key for ARC changes is whether or not any give to North Dakota and Montana senators translates into a lower ARC payment percentage or other changes from the original draft, to help soother the northern-state senators.

  • Southern rice growers' charge the farm bill markup is not equitable for major crops, especially rice. For a host of reasons (moving from base to planted acres for subsidy payments, and the weakness of the crop insurance program for southern rice growers), the markup vehicle before today's events is seen as a very weak safety net for Mid South and Delta rice growers. But what will they be offered, if anything?

  • Cotton STAX: The crop (revenue) assurance program is seen wanting by the National Cotton Council because of some changes from its initial proposal. Senate Ag panel aides signal there was a technical error in some of the language, but this will be corrected via the manager's amendment. Will that be enough to soothe NCC and southern senators?

  • CBO budget-saving score. The CBO scores the savings of the farm bill draft at $26.4 billion. That figure was above the $23 billion in cuts that was the goal of Senate Ag Committee leaders. The additional savings, sources say, was intentional in order to provide more funding for those wanting changes from the original draft. But how will CBO scores the plethora of amendments offered, and what will be the final budget-cut tally?

  • Payment caps: Some senators want to make proposed changes less onerous, while others want more reform in this area.

  • Food Stamp/SNAP budget cuts: Some Democratic members could propose fewer nutrition spending cuts. If not, this will certainly be a Senate floor issue – and a House farm bill issue because some House Republicans want far more nutrition spending cuts than in the Senate farm bill markup.

  • Dairy policy: Processors want to alter the supply management language in the proposed draft, but do they have the votes for this modification? The National Milk Producers Federation has already pounced on one of the proposed amendments by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) that NMPF said would cost dairy farmers more than $400 million in additional expenses. The amendment, NMPF said, would make "dramatic changes to the dairy title of the legislation. Bennet’s amendment would increase the cost to dairy farmers on the margin insurance program by as much as a staggering $429 million in the next five years."

 

  • Ethanol policy: Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) has several amendments filed that are geared at the ethanol industry in a not friendly manner. Will any of them be passed? Sources note that the ethanol amendment by Saxby was to make a point to northern colleagues attacking his crops that agriculture needs to hang together or hang separate.


 

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


 


 

 

 

 

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RELATED TOPICS: Inside Washington Today

 
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COMMENTS (2 Comments)

- Northville, SD
This column doesn't tell me much
8:42 AM Apr 29th
 
- Northville, SD
This column doesn't tell me much
8:42 AM Apr 29th
 



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