Farm Bill Update: June 21, 2012

June 21, 2012 01:41 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Senate to complete farm bill debate today | House Ag markup July 11 | Major amendments

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

-- Senate is expected to complete its farm policy debate today. Most of the remaining amendments are non-germane and thus will require hard-to-get 60 votes for passage. The final vote prior to expected passage of the farm bill is on an amendment based on legislation (S 3221) by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that would change the National Labor Relations Act to allow private employers to give merit-based payments to workers outside the terms of collective bargaining contracts.

-- Official House Ag Committee markup date is July 11. The delay is for several reasons, including House floor debate and votes next week on the Fiscal Year 2013 Ag appropriations bills, additional scoring of some pending House farm bill provisions. Politico reported that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) played a role in the markup delay.

-- Key unknown on House farm bill: timing of House floor debate, and what type of rule will govern it. With the House Ag Committee scheduling its farm bill markup on July 11, the next major issue will be when the measure will get floor time and under what procedure. With the Senate allowing many amendments to be debated and voted on, that will be a test for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) who in the past has indicated he likes bills to have an open debate. But farm bill veterans wonder how open the House debate will be. The Senate farm bill debate has already brought some surprising amendments, much to the dismay of traditional farm bill supporters and some senators, especially as it pertains to crop insurance subsidies. One House source familiar with Boehner's operation said, "It will be a modified open rule with approval of a series of amendments subject to Rules IF it moves at all in July. I know the blueprint for House floor action in July and the farm bill isn't on it. If the farm-state, farm bill supporters feel they need a bill, then they'll take what floor time the Speaker gives...and I think its in their interest to have a modified open rule or you can kiss a lot of key provisions goodbye."

-- Farm bill amendment passed that would require crop insurance policyholders to comply with the same conservation requirements now tied to crop subsidies. While some senators said this was unnecessary, the proposed Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) and the cotton STAX program would not have had conservation requirements had the Chambliss amendment not passed. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who authored the language, said that conservation compliance was needed because otherwise farmers might shift from commodity programs to crop insurance. Some large-acreage farmers were signaling that may be the case in their bolting the controversial Ag Risk Coverage (ARC) program and instead going with SCO.

-- Subsidized crop insurance premiums would be raised for policyholders with AGI of more than $750,000. The higher premiums, successfully pushed by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) would not take effect until USDA conducted a study, in consultation with the Government Accountability Office, to determine possible higher costs. Senate Ag Chairwoman predicted the amendment would be defeated. The cleared amendment would reduce by 15 percentage points the taxpayer share of crop insurance premiums for those with incomes of more than $750,000. The government now pays an average 62 percent of crop insurance premiums.

-- Millionaire amendment approved. Another Coburn amendment approved would rescind authority to grant waivers to allow individuals with adjusted gross incomes of $1 million or more to receive payments for conservation programs. It was approved, 63-36.

-- Food aid to North Korea. The Senate adopted 59-40 an amendment by Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) that would place a prohibition on federal food assistance to North Korea that could be waived by a presidential certification that such aid is in the national interest. The chamber rejected 43-56 a GOP version by Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona that lacked the waiver authority.

-- Organic crops win higher payments for crop insurance. An amendment by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) was approved, 63-36, that would provide for higher payments for federal crop insurance for organic crops based on the higher market value of such crops than their conventional counterparts. The amendment was adopted, 63-36.

-- African cotton producers protest US farm bill. African countries that have protested US cotton subsidies for years criticized the Senate farm bill, saying it would keep that support under a new guise, according to the Agence France-Presse (AFP). A delegation of cotton-producing African countries -- Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali -- were in Washington to express concerns that the farm bill will penalize African cotton growers. "We are worried, because this new element of the farm bill appears to be a subsidy," said the coordinator of the C4 group, Burkina Faso's trade minister, Arthur Kafando. The C4 group fears that the insurance program being debated in Senate (the cotton STAX program) is "more dangerous" than the direct subsidies being provided by Washington. Kafando, who met with US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and senators, said he called for "a significant reduction, or the elimination of subsidies no matter where they come from, not only the United States, but also China and India."


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






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