Many thought the odds were against it, but the farm bill has made it over a major hurdle. Senators approved their version of the bill (S. 3240) in a strong bipartisan vote of 64 to 35.
But this is just the first step. We still have a lot of concerns that need to be addressed as the farm bill moves forward. The House Agriculture Committee announced earlier this week that it was postponing its consideration of a farm bill draft until July 11. The committee was originally slated to take the legislation up next week.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said this yesterday: “There is still a lot of hard work ahead to fully secure the kind of policy we believe our farm and ranch families need, but we applaud the Senate for approving a workable bill and moving this process forward. The Senate has provided us solid footing by approving a bill that stands firm on $23 billion in savings, yet protects and strengthens the federal crop insurance program and provides a commodity title that attempts to encourage producers to follow market signals rather than make planting decisions in anticipation of government payments.”
In votes taken Wednesday, Farm Bureau was successful in: opposing an amendment that would have prohibited any program to promote and provide research and information for a particular agricultural commodity without reference to specific producers or brands (a check-off program) from being mandatory or compulsory; opposing an amendment that would have eliminated the $4 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program and added $50 million annually to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program from the current $150 million authorization; opposing an amendment that would have imposed a $250,000 Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) means test for all programs in the farm bill, including conservation; and opposing an amendment that would have reduced loan rates and eliminated other changes to the sugar program made in the 2008 farm bill.
Farm Bureau was not successful in efforts: to oppose an amendment requiring conservation compliance as a requisite for crop insurance; and to oppose an amendment establishing payment limits for marketing loans and loan deficiency payments at $75,000 a year for individual farmers and $100,000 a year for couples.
Farm Bureau’s position was also unsuccessful when an alternative amendment passed that would limit crop insurance premium subsidies to any person with an adjusted gross income exceeding $750,000. AFBF had supported a related unsuccessful amendment that called for a study of such an eligibility requirement and to disallow the action if it carried negative ramifications for the cost, availability or administration of the crop insurance program.