If Congress is going to pass a farm bill this year, at some point, the House and Senate will have to bring their respective version together and craft a final product. It's beginning to look like those two versions could have some big differences.
"I think you'll see a very different farm bill, if not from the committee, from the Senate floor," Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told reporters during a press call Wednesday.
During that call, Brown postulated that the Senate Ag Committee would write in lower payment limits than the $1 million gross adjusted income cap the House put on individuals who receive farm program payments.
But the real reason for the call was for Brown and Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to announce that they are proposing a revenue-based farm safety net to be included in the Senate's farm bill. The House Ag Committee's bill offers farmers the choice between new revenue-based coverage supports or the old price-based system.
One crucial difference is that Durbin and Brown say their program is budget-neutral. This appears especially relevant because USDA Secretary Mike Johanns also had a press conference Wednesday - to threaten the House bill with a veto, due partly to budget concerns.
Durbin and Brown say that their program could replace the need for ad hoc disaster aid and provide a better safety net for farmers - "our job is to protect farmers during a really bad year," Durbin says - while eliminating supports that they say distort production and sometimes provide excessive payments to farmers. Brown adds that their program "reduces the incentive to overproduce marginal land."
Brown says that if the Senate Ag Committee takes their proposal seriously, "there will be better yield protection in this bill."
More differences - or perhaps similarities - will unfold as the farm bill is discussed on the House floor this week.