Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., says she is hoping to get a farm bill proposal approved by the committee by the end of the month. She hopes that the Committee can agree on programs that reduce spending by at least $23 billion over 10 years, the same size reductions claimed in the bill passed by the full Senate last summer.
But committee dynamics have changed.
Senator Thad Cochran, R- Miss., has replaced Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., as the ranking member and he is pushing for safety nets based on target prices, something that was not included in last year’s Senate bill.
In addition, the Congressional Budget Office has determined that last year’s bill really only reduced spending by $13 billion, instead of the $23 billion claimed. There does not appear to be any progress on a new farm bill in the House Agriculture Committee.
There was further progress this week in the efforts to reform immigration policy.
Senators working on the issue hope to introduce legislation soon and a hearing on the issue is scheduled for next week. In general, the plan would secure the borders, put 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship and allow tens of thousands of high and low skilled foreign workers into the U.S. on new visa programs.
According to labor and industry estimates at least 50 percent and probably closer to 70 percent to 80 percent of the country’s 2 million farm workers are here illegally.
President Obama released his budget proposal for fiscal 2014 last week. The plan would cut the rates of growth in Medicare and Social Security spending, close tax loopholes for people with high incomes and reduce deficits by $1.8 trillion over ten years, according to administration estimates.
Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle have expressed opposition to parts of the administration’s budget.