Farm Bill Update: June 13, 2012

June 13, 2012 12:45 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Discord continues over number and scope of amendments

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

No farm bill is ever easy in its initial attempt at floor debate, and this was proven again on Tuesday when Senate leaders failed to reach agreement on the number and scope of amendments.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) "filled the tree" with amendments. Another attempt will be made to reach an agreement. If none is found, Reid will likely take similar action. If no agreement is reached into Thursday, sources say, Reid could file cloture which would set up a key vote for next week (after three days of "ripening").

Details: By filling the tree, Reid blocked other senators from attaching amendments to the farm bill -- other than two amendments which will be voted on (likely killed) today. Senators will have to come to an agreement on amendments or Reid will have to file cloture in order to attach more amendments to the bill. The Senate today will hold two symbolic votes, one on food stamps and one the US sugar program. The first, by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) replaces the federal food stamp program with a state block grant system. The other, by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), would modify the US sugar program.


Reid said he had "not given up hope" for reaching a "universal agreement" on the more than 200 farm bill amendments senators had already introduced for consideration. If the chamber does not reach an agreement on which amendments to consider, the farm bill could stall.

The discord centers on Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) insistence on votes on five restrictions on regulations. He listed five, including one to require the Department of Labor to consult with Congress before implementing child labor regulations for farms, one that stops the EPA from regulating non-navigable waters, one preventing the farm dust rule, one concerning Dodd-Frank financial regulations on futures and one on aerial surveillance. "These five common sense Republican amendments I have outlined, along with several others, put an end to numerous job-killing regulations and each of them deserve a vote," McConnell said.

Meanwhile, others are now reporting what this reporter signaled early on Tuesday:  Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) are discussing a possible amendment that would help ease regional tensions relative to the farm safety net.

Farm bill proponents noting that a farm bill "must be completed by Sept. 30" and if not, an extension of the current farm bill must be made are overstating the case.
During the last major farm bill debate, Congress did not begin several extensions of the 2002 Farm Bill until late December 2007. Thus, there is plenty of time to reach a farm bill agreement if leaders decide on the number and scope of amendments.

Comments: Talk of a major impasse abounds, but let's see how today turns out before declaring the controversial Senate farm bill in need of major help and a possible short-term extension (with modifications) of the 2008 Farm Bill. Watching this process can be complex and sometimes very boring and time-consuming. Go on to other things and check back at the end of the day!


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






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