Note: updated to include news that the Senate markup hearings are scheduled to start today - April 26, 2012
With a mark up print in circulation - even at 900 pages - groups continue to chime in with their support for the farm bill, along with a fair share of potential tweaks. Groups will get their change to share input on the new bill starting Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m. (Eastern) since the Senate Ag Committee announced it would start the markup process.
We've covered a range of groups and their ideas. The National Farmers Union issued a release praising the Senate's work. and provided a letter to the Committee.
"The draft draft legislation put forth by Sens. Stabenow and Roberts provides for strengthened crop insurance programs and simplified protection options for farmers against yield losses through the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program," says Roger Johns, president, National Farmers Union. "ARC has promise as an effective safety net program and will better ensure that only farmers who need assistance will benefit from the program."
In that letter, Johnson thanked committee leaders for including livestock health and disaster programs. He also offered support for amendments to adopt prohibitions on packer ownership of livestock, a long-time issue for the organization. And Johns called for more funding for energy programs asking that the Committee "include the amendment by Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., which provides $800 million in mandatory funding for core energy programs. "These programs are critical for rural development and for helping America become more energy independent," Johnson says.
Amendments urged to limit payments
Meanwhile the Center for Rural Affairs offers up some amendment ideas of its own, noting that the cuts proposed are a challenge to small rural businesses. "the farm bill proposal before the Senate Ag Committee slashes investment in rural small business development and value-added agriculture while increasing crop insurance subsidies for some of the nation's largest farms and wealthiest landowners. There are opportunities to fix some of these issues right now, while the Committee debates amendments to the bill," said Traci Bruckner of the Center for Rural Affairs.
The amendment offered by Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Senator Ben Nelson, D-Neb., is an important first step. It would deny farm subsidies to individuals with taxable income over $500,000 and married couples making over $1 million. The money saved would be invested in revitalizing rural communities through small business development, beginning farmer programs, value added agriculture and assistance for small towns in updating water and sewer systems.
The group also supports an amendment from Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Mike Johanns, R-Neb. as well as Sens. Brown and Nelson, that would help "reverse the perverse incentive in current farm policy to break up marginal, erosion-prone grasslands.
The Senate Ag Committee will be dealing with more than 100 amendments when it begins deliberation.