October 28, 2011
The Senate returns from recess on Monday, one day before the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are expected to deliver a farm bill proposal to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (informally known as the “Supercommittee”). In their October 14 letter to the Supercommittee, the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees pledged to provide the Supercomittee with “a complete legislative package by November 1, 2011,” referring to a farm bill.
In the letter, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK), Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS) recommended a net $23 billion cut in mandatory farm bill spending over the next decade in exchange for a chance to write the policy that will yield that net cut themselves, rather than leaving the policy making up to the Supercommittee.
As has been widely reported, roughly $14 to $15 billion of the $23 billion is expected to come from commodity program payments, with $6.5 billion coming from conservation programs, and $4 to $5 billion from nutrition programs. Of particular concern to NSAC is the size of the conservation reduction, which comes on top of a $3 billion reduction to farm bill conservation mandatory spending already made via the annual appropriations process. Those cuts together with the ones being discussed by the Agriculture Committees would equal a combined cut of 15 percent, effectively wiping out all the gains made in the 2008 Farm Bill and 40 percent of the gains made in the 2002 Farm Bill.
Also on the docket for next week is the passage of the fiscal year 2012 Senate agriculture appropriations bill, now being considered as part of an appropriations “minibus,” which combines the Commerce-Justice-Science and the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development funding bills as well as the agriculture bill.
The Senate voted last Friday to end debate on the minibus, setting up a vote upon their return from recess.
The Senate agriculture bill, which passed through the Appropriations Committee by voice vote on Wednesday, September 7, cuts farm bill mandatory conservation programs by 12 percent, or $726 million, on top of the half billion dollar cut contained in the FY 2011 agriculture appropriations bill.
There are quite a few amendments to the appropriations package to be voted on as early as Monday, including many that are relevant to agriculture. See our previous blog entries for a detailed description of the Senate agriculture appropriations bill and the most relevant amendments.