Farm Bill Timeline and Senate Floor Amendment Update
May 26th, 2012
Last week we offered an overview of the possible timing for the next steps in the 2012 Farm Bill process. Without recovering the same ground, this post is a quick update to the earlier overview.
As we note in the accompanying post, the big news this week was the release of the Senate Agriculture Committee-approved Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 (the proposed name for the 2012 Farm Bill) and the accompanying budget scoring table from the Congressional Budget Office. Please read the accompanying post for comments on the farm bill budget.
Also this week, the timing for Senate floor consideration firmed up a bit more. When the Senate returns from its Memorial Day recess week on June 5, the first order of business will be consideration of the Paycheck Fairness Act. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicates that once consideration of that bill is complete, the next order of business will be the farm bill. That might mean the beginning of the farm bill floor debate on June 7, or at least by early the following week. In either event, it will surely spill over into the week of June 11.
The House will be on recess the week of June 11, setting up the possibility that the Senate might have completed its consideration of the farm bill by the time House Agriculture Chair Frank Lucas has indicated he would like to start markup of his version of the bill in committee on June 19. If he is able to keep to his preferred timeline, it is assumed his version of the bill will become available at least a few days in advance.
All dates, of course, are subject to change.
Perhaps the most important and depressing development of this past week was the release by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) of the House floor “to do” list for this summer. Very conspicuous by its absence is the farm bill. This is consistent with what we have been hearing all spring from those in close touch with House Speaker John Boehner’s office, but with the Senate moving forward and with Chairman Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Peterson (D-MN) doing everything they can to try to jump start the House process, there was hope pressure would build for House consideration of the 2012 Farm Bill on time, this year. Perhaps there still is, but if so, the release of the House summer agenda this week was not a confidence booster.
Without House floor consideration in July, there would be very little hope of having a final bill by the September 30 deadline. If it becomes clear the House will not take up the bill then, the normally routine but likely very difficult process this time around of extending the current farm bill for a few months or a year will have to begin this summer, and that effort, too, would need to be successfully concluded by September 30.
Funding considerations in any farm bill extension option are complicated by the hotly contested election year context, the highly partisan atmosphere, the impending automatic “sequestration” cuts (including at least $15 billion in farm bill cuts) that kick in on January 1 unless Congress acts to delay those too, the large number of farm bill programs whose funding completely expires on September 30 absent some action by Congress, and the fact that also absent some action by Congress, $5 billion in direct commodity payments (which would be terminated under both the Senate and House Committee-proposed farm bills) would go out the door and into the mail on October 1.
As Senate floor consideration approaches, amendments to the Committee-passed bill will begin to solidify and eventually be filed for potential floor consideration. As those amendments firm up, we will be issuing posts to summarize them and we will also be sending out alerts.
Already, we are confident there will be amendments to:
- provide farm bill funding for key rural economic development, job-creating programs and increase funding for the keystone beginning farmer and rancher and socially disadvantaged farmer and rancher programs;
- cap commodity subsidies and apply income eligibility standards to receipt of crop insurance subsidies;
- relink highly erodible land and wetland conservation requirements to the receipt of crop insurance subsidies;
- provide new flexibility to assist schools in procuring food from local farms to boost farm-to-school programs and improve the health and well-being of children while also improving the farm economy;
- ensure that a portion of the annual agricultural research effort supports the development of critical new public plant and animal breeds to advance sustainability and increase long-term food security; and
- improve animal welfare for egg-laying hens by embracing the historic agreement between the United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but are among the efforts that NSAC are following closely. Again, we will provide our readers with additional details as these and other amendments firm up.
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