Farm Bill Introduced in Senate as S 3240

May 24, 2012 11:17 PM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Last-minute, $3 billion change made in supplemental crop insurance option to get needed budget score from CBO

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

Another missing ingredient to getting debate started on the Senate farm bill has been checked off following the official introduction of the measure (S 3240) in the Senate, where it is expected to begin being debated shortly after senators return the week of June 4 following the Memorial Day recess. However, Senate Ag panel leaders and staffers scrambled in recent days to adjust a supplemental crop insurance option to make sure the legislation garnered the around $23 billion budget savings hyped by farm bill leaders. 

Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) labeled it a "bipartisan bill that reforms US food and farm policy to save taxpayers $23 billion while strengthening and streamlining programs to continue allowing the agricultural economy to grow." She declared the proposal represents "the most significant reforms of agriculture policy in decades."

SCO gets a $3 billion budget haircut, watering down program incentives. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected to release estimates of the bill sometime Friday, May 25. But due to an apparent change in CBO's scoring methodology, Ag panel staffers revised the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) to clarify that farmers who enroll in the program will be subject to a 10 percent deductible. However, other sources said the SCO program was attracting a lot of attention by some farmers, perhaps so much that it could have limited participation in the proposed Ag Risk Coverage (ARC) revenue assurance program. 

"This bill has strong bipartisan support from Senators across the country and I am looking forward to beginning floor consideration soon. We look forward to continuing to build on the Senate Farm bill’s broad bipartisan support to enact a Farm Bill this year before the current one expires. Agriculture supports 16 million jobs in our country, and it is absolutely critical to provide farmers the certainty they need by passing a Farm Bill this year," Stabenow said, concluding that, "The time for reform has come."

Panel vote. Senate Ag Committee members present on April 26 during the bill's markup voted 12-4 to approve the measure. The tally when proxy votes were added was 16-5.

Details: A copy of the bill can be accessed on the Senate Agriculture Committee’s website at this link.

Comments: Besides the coming CBO estimates, the key issues are the number of scope of amendments and whether or not Stabenow's prediction earlier this week is on the mark relative to having the 60 votes needed to complete debate on the measure and get a final vote in place. The next hurdle will be what is expected to be a far different bill in the House, especially relative to the commodity title, and whether or not House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) brings the bill up for floor consideration before the Nov. 6 elections.

As for the multibillion-dollar changes to the SCO, this shows what some Senate farm bill naysayes are noting about the bill: too much emphasis by some senators and reportedly key staffers in pushing the free, but taxpayer paid for ARC over the more fiscally minded SCO.


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






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