D.C. Watch: Senate farm bill nearing

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There was no progress on passing a new farm bill with Congress taking a Memorial Week holiday last week. However, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairperson Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., thinks the bill will be finalized in the Senate this week.

House debate on the bill won’t begin until mid-month, but House members will probably begin filing proposed amendments with the Rules Committee this week.

Amendments will be proposed to change the food stamp provisions, crop insurance provisions, dairy support provisions and sugar policies of the proposed bill.

The Senate still has to debate and vote on several amendments before the farm bill is approved.

One would cap crop insurance premium subsidies at $50,000 per person, which would save $3.4 billion over 10 years according to the Congressional Budget Office. The cap would have affected fewer than 4 percent of crop producers in 2011, according to the Government Accounting Office.

Crop Insurance will become the biggest part of the farm safety net if a new farm bill is approved, which makes it a big target for members of Congress who want to reduce farm program spending.

Senate approval of an amendment that reduces the crop insurance premium subsidy for farmers with adjusted gross incomes of $750,000 or more was criticized by some crop insurance experts this week.

They worry that big farmers will stop buying crop insurance, which would raise costs for other farmers that stay in the program.

Under the amendment, the premium subsidy for the farmers who have $750,000 or more of adjusted gross income would be reduced from 62 percent to 47 percent.

Some members of Congress would also like to eliminate the harvest price option in some crop insurance policies.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, hopes the “Adverse Market Payment,” a counter-cyclical type program, can still be cut out of the Senate farm bill proposal.

The target price component was not a part of the bill passed last year. Speaking for others who agree with him,

Grassley says “Our concern is target price programs are ill-suited for America’s farm economy.”

 However, with an even stronger target price support program expected in the House bill (and little opposition to the plan from farm groups) it appears the Adverse Market Payment will probably be included in any final bill.



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