Anticipation is building for 2012 farm bill action in the coming weeks, with reauthorization before the current bill’s expiration on Sept. 30 looking possible.
The next step forward is almost certainly Senate consideration of a bill approved by the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee on April 26 by a 16 to 5 vote.
NAWG and other farm groups continue to analyze the bill and its final provisions in preparation for floor debate. This week, the Committee released a 17-page summary of the bill, available with other documents at http://www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill.
Senate Agriculture leaders have not yet announced when the bill might come to the floor, though just two weeks remain in the targeted period of before the Memorial Day recess.
On Monday, NAWG joined more than 125 other stakeholder organizations in urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring the bill to the floor as quickly as possible. “The stakeholders we represent need to know details of the programs which will be in effect in 2013 as soon as possible,” the groups wrote.
“Timely action will also enhance prospects for completing new legislation this year rather than needing to extend current program authorities.”
A Dear Colleague letter urging quick scheduling of the full Senate farm bill debate is also circulating, which NAWG has encouraged all Senators to sign onto.
The House farm bill process is also well under way, with House Agriculture Committee subcommittees continuing a series of hearings on key farm policy issues ahead of a mark-up.
Hearings this week covered nutrition and credit policies, with a series set to continue next week covering farm policy programs and crop insurance as well as bioenergy programs.
NAWG President Erik Younggren, a farmer from Hallock, Minn., will be in Washington for the farm policy hearing, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.
Both House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) have expressed concerns with the Senate bill’s revenue protection program, saying it would not protect producers as well in times of low prices.
The House bill is expected to be different than the Senate bill for this and other reasons and is likely to include a price protection mechanism, perhaps in addition to a revenue protection mechanism.
Another major difference between the House and Senate bills will likely be the cuts to nutrition programs, which account for about 80 percent of farm bill spending.
Senate cuts to the programs, led by SNAP at nearly $80 billion per year, totaled just $4 billon over 10 years. By comparison, the House Agriculture Committee recently approved $33 billion in cuts to nutrition programs over a 10-year period to fulfill budget reconciliation instructions.
While that vote was largely political, it does indicate sentiment among some on the panel, which could impact farm bill language coming out of that chamber.
More from the House Agriculture Committee on its subcommittee hearings is at http://agriculture.house.gov.
A full copy of the letter sent to Senate leaders this week is at www.wheatworld.org/farmbill.