Farm Bill Update: May 3, 2013

May 3, 2013 03:43 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Ag panels gearing up for markup sessions

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

The following are some updates on farm bill issues:

Senate farm bill: Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) previously signaled her intent to markup the Senate version of the farm bill in early May -- initial indications were that markup would be held next Thursday, May 9. But sources say it appears too much work needs to be done to have a markup session the week of May 6. If so, both Ag panels could hold markup sessions the same week -- in mid-May. Unlike the Senate farm bill last year, this year's version will include a producer option for target/reference prices. However, the target price levels in many cases are expected to be below the House proposed levels of 2012. Some sources signal rice and peanuts could be the "favored commodities" relative to coming target price levels in the Senate. That would signal the significance of new ranking member Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). Crop insurance could see a few changes in the Senate mix, with the Actual Production History yield plug deleted, and last year's irrigation and non irrigated language altered. Can the coming Senate farm bill rewrite pass even the Ag Committee? That may not be a quick yes as most expect. It may depend in part on whether or not Stabenow includes the controversial Egg Bill language into her draft. That language is opposed by many mainstream livestock and poultry groups. If she does, some lawmakers have already said they won't support the overall bill, including Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.).

CBO scoring: Sources say the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has completed its May baseline update, even though it will not be released for several weeks -- and not likely before Ag panel markup sessions. But the various farm bill proposals will be scored off the May update, which for most purposes will be very similar to CBO's late-February baseline update.

Timeline for House Ag Committee action: The House Ag Committee will tentatively release text for the new farm bill as soon as next Wednesday, May 8 -- that date of course could change. Panel members will have until Monday, May 13 to file amendments, with a tentative May 15 (Wednesday) markup date. Most if not all of the approved amendments during last year's markup will be  included in the Chairman's mark. House floor action on the farm bill is still murky, but some House sources have signaled GOP leadership wants the farm bill to be voted on by the July Fourth recess.

A few changes in the coming House farm bill: The commodity title of the coming House farm bill will look very similar to the 2012 version that cleared the Ag panel. Target/reference price levels are expected to match those proposed last year. We've learned the the Supplemental Coverage Option will cover losses ranging from the elected insurance coverage level to 65 percent of the SCO guarantee, down from 70 percent in the 2012 farm bill proposal. Some $4 billion in additional food stamp funding cuts will largely come from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Importantly, we're told Ag panel members will be told to "vote their conscience" regarding the dairy policy reform changes that include supply management. That could mean potential changes ahead in that area. Good news is coming for the livestock sector, as we've learned the House farm bill will include last year's Senate language regarding livestock disaster provisions. Good news is also coming for the horticulture industry, which will reportedly see a boost in research funding. The maximum acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is expected to be lowered to 24 million acres (a drop of another million acres from the 2012 House farm bill proposal) -- phased down over a period of years. The current CRP maximum is 32 million acres.

Amendments: Expected amendment topics include the areas of sugar policy, dairy policy, crop insurance, and conservation compliance, among other topics.


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






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