Farm Bill Update

May 15, 2013 06:11 AM

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Senate votes next week | House Ag panel markup today.

Senate farm bill (S 954) will likely be brought up next week for debate and final approval. The Senate Ag Committee-passed bill (15-5 vote) was filed late Tuesday.

Senate floor amendments to face 60-vote hurdle. Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said floor amendments to the farm bill will likely need at least 60 votes for passage. That could well limit the number offered.

House Ag committee markup should be completed today. Some 101 amendments were offered. Around one quarter of them were included as part of an en bloc amendment for the House farm bill (HR 1947). Among efforts included in that en bloc amendment was one that would require EPA to consult with USDA on regulations that could significantly affect agriculture with USDA analyzing the impact of the regulations. 

As for timing, a Republican conference will take place today at 3 p.m. ET, and at 5 p.m. ET there will be a series of votes on the House floor. House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) today told panel members they would reconvene at 6:30 p.m. He said the panel would take as long as necessary to complete the farm bill markup.

Key issues in the House Ag panel debate include dairy and food stamp funding. Sources say it appears that an effort by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to alter supply management language in the proposed Dairy Security Act does not have enough votes for passage. If so, the issue will likely be part of another attempt on the House floor. Efforts will also be made both in committee and during the likely June House floor debate regarding increasing food stamp funding cuts. The existing US sugar program may also generate some amendments to alter it, but the program is expected to remain intact.

-- Goodlatte/Scott dairy amendment fails: As our sources signaled, there was opposition to the Goodlatte/Scott amendment as the panel voted 20-26 on the amendment, sending it down to defeat after considerable debate on both sides of the issue.


-- Effort to eliminate SNAP cuts fails: The most extensive debate so far during the markup session came on an amendment that would have removed the $20 billion reduction in SNAP funding from the bill. Very impassioned remarks were heard on both sides of the issue with the debate taking many winding and twisting turns over the course of more than an hour before the vote. The measure failed on a  17-27 vote.

COOL amendment coming. Rep. Austin Scott (D-Ga.) will likely propose repealing country-of-origin labeling. A similar amendment was withdrawn during Senate Ag Committee markup yesterday.

Animal welfare. An amendment is expected to be approved that would bar states such as California from imposing production standards on out-of-state farms. The language is aimed at protecting egg producers from having to increase cage sizes due to standards being imposed in several states. The amendment is seen as an alternative to an approach pushed by the United Egg Producers setting national cage standards, but strongly opposed by hog and cattle groups. Sen. Stabenow backed off an earlier attempt to include the cage standards in the Senate farm bill after she and her staff realized it was causing vote problems. On Tuesday, Stabenow said the amendment would not be considered germane on the Senate floor, even though cage standards are likely to be an amendment topic on the House floor.



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