Ramsey Cox reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has scheduled a vote for Monday on the farm bill.
“Reid filed cloture on the House-passed amendment to H.R. 2642 — the $956 billion conference committee farm bill — setting up a vote for Monday at 5:30 p.m. If at least 60 senators vote to end debate, the Senate will then proceed to a vote on final passage.”
The Hill update noted that, “‘While it cuts more to food assistance programs than some of us would like, it’s a good compromise that will protect needy families,’ Reid said Thursday morning.”
The article added that, “One of the conferees, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), said he wouldn’t support final passage of the bill because it didn’t include major reforms to farm subsidies that both the original Senate and House bills included.
“‘Does the new farm bill improve agriculture in America? I believe unfortunately the answer is no,’ Roberts said. ‘We should not pass a farm bill with more government subsidies, more government regulations and more waste.’”
After Monday’s cloture vote, a vote on final passage would then come on Tuesday.
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Given up for dead just months ago, a new five-year farm bill easily cleared the House Wednesday morning, raising hopes that Congress can send it to President Barack Obama next week.
“The strength of the House’s 251-166 vote makes this easier, and it’s now expected that when the bill papers arrive in the Senate Thursday, cloture will be filed promptly, setting up a pivotal roll call vote Monday. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has said she wants to finish no later than next Wednesday, and aides in both parties said this was certainly doable.
“Filling hundreds of pages, the giant measure combines a landmark rewrite of commodity programs with bipartisan reforms and savings from food stamps. It caps years of struggle spanning two Congresses, a political saga largely ignored by the national media and White House but one that fractured the old farm and food coalition as never before.
Farm Bill; Immigration; and, the Ag Economy- Wednesday
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “The House cleared the way for a Wednesday showdown vote on the new farm bill agreement [one page summary here] , even as Republicans blocked Democratic efforts to dedicate a portion of the savings to help pay for extended unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless.
“The 222-194 vote Tuesday made for a sharp contrast with the broad support now enjoyed by the farm bill itself. And after two years of struggle, the Agriculture Committee leadership is increasingly confident that the giant measure will now prevail—almost exactly six months after it was upended by the same chamber last June.
“‘I think we’re going to get there but if it was easy, it wouldn’t be the farm bill would it?’ House Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) joked with reporters. And at a morning Democratic Caucus, proponents were cheered by the fact that Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), who leads the Congressional Black Caucus, rose to defend the deal despite liberal complaints about continued cuts from food stamps.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “House-Senate negotiators reached agreement and filed a new farm bill late Monday, a nearly 960-page measure [bill text, statement of managers, brief overview] that combines a landmark rewrite of commodity programs together with bipartisan reforms and savings from food stamps.
“But for a moment Monday night, the stage belonged to the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees, who have struggled through two Congresses to hold together the frayed, often fractured coalition of agriculture and nutrition interests behind any farm bill.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “After a two-year struggle and more perils than ‘Downton Abbey,’ Congress should finally see a new farm bill this week as House-Senate negotiators worked through the weekend in hopes of filing the legislation by Monday night.
“Going into Sunday night, disputes continued over livestock regulations. But afternoon staff briefings were already being held on the proposed agreement, and the hope was to call the conferees together for their signatures on Monday.
“Indeed, the mood was such that no one believed any longer that more time would help; instead, it was judged better to grab the opportunity for House action this week. And if the farm bill is filed Monday night, the leadership is proposing to call it up as early as Wednesday, a fast turnaround for a measure given up as dead by many just months ago.”
Mr. Rogers noted that, “Bipartisan support remains crucial, but Democrats have won significant compromises on food stamp funding and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is promising a real push to deliver the needed Republican votes.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “House farm bill conferees are being alerted to a likely meeting Monday morning at which the Agriculture Committee leadership is hoping to finalize agreement on a conference report that can come to the floor next week.
“‘Conversations are ongoing and we remain optimistic that we can reach agreement in time to be on the floor next week,’ reads a Republican staff memo sent out Friday and picked up by committee Democrats to alert their own staff and member offices.”
Yesterday’s article indicated that, “‘If we are to be on the floor next week then we will need to file the conference report on Monday,’ the memo says. ‘As we see it, your bosses would need to be in town on Monday morning for one of two things: 1) a conference meeting to decide final issues or 2) a GOP conferee meeting to discuss the agreement and collect signatures.’
“‘We would ask your boss to be prepared to be in town to attend a Monday morning meeting either way.’”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Yards from the finish line, farm bill negotiators are struggling with two final issues — dairy and payment limits — each of which takes Congress back full circle to the question asked when the whole debate began two years ago.
“How far should government go to protect farmers from bad times — and, sometimes, themselves?
“In dairy’s case, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is adamant that he won’t accept the hands-on approach espoused in the Senate bill to manage future milk supplies to protect farmers’ margins. Corporate giants like Kraft Foods and Nestleback the speaker. And this puts House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) in the hellish position of having to go against the man who’s been his best friend and ally in the whole tortured farm bill debate: Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).”
The article noted that, “In the case of payment limits, it’s a very different set of players. But the question is again one of balancing government’s role and the risks of modern agriculture.”
The “Washington Insider” section of DTN explained yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “A number of reports have indicated that an agreement among farm bill conferees that would provide a new dairy policy program without supply management means the farm bill is all but completed. However, there remain several loose ends still dangling until Congress reconvenes next week.
“Chief among these are provisions covering crop subsidy caps and country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for meat and meat products. Some Capitol Hill sources predict that the four farm bill principals likely will decide those issues during a meeting among themselves rather than holding a meeting that includes all 41 conferees.
“There are some who are promoting a modified North American label for COOL, without a U.S.-origin label, but some pro-COOL farm group lobbyists are opposed. Others are counseling that USDA take its time regarding the final COOL rule, choosing instead to wait until the World Trade Organization decides a pending case on that rule that has been filed by Canada and Mexico.”
Ali Meyer reported yesterday at CNSNews.com that, “A record 20% of American households, one in five, were on food stamps in 2013, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).”
Meanwhile, Ron Nixon reported yesterday at The New York Times Online that, “Late last year, staff members at the Capital Area Food Bank here [Washington] began fielding requests for larger deliveries from the dozens of soup kitchens and food pantries that it supplies as more and more people showed up seeking help.
“The food bank said it was not unusual to see a surge before Thanksgiving or Christmas. But this time the lines were caused not by the holidays but by a $5 billion cut to the federal food stamp program that took effect in November when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expired.
“Now the food bank, which provided about 45 million pounds of food last year, says it is preparing for even greater demand as Congress prepares to cut billions of dollars more from the food stamp program, which is included in a farm bill that has yet to pass. About 47 million Americans receive food stamps.”
Mr. Nixon explained that, “It is unclear when the new cuts will kick in, even if Congress manages to pass a new farm bill, an effort that has taken almost two years. The House and the Senate appear to have worked out most of their differences on the bill. That compromise is expected to cut about $9 billion from food stamps over 10 years. House Republicans had wanted to trim financing by $40 billion over the same period, and a bipartisan Senate bill sought a $4 billion cut.
“But House members, most of them Republicans, may be unwilling to pass a bill that includes anything less than the $40 billion cut. And senators, especially Democrats, may see the compromise measure as going too far. President Obama has threatened to veto any bill that cuts too deeply.”
A news release yesterday from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) stated that, “[Sen. Heitkamp] today spoke with North Dakota agriculture producers about the progress that has been made on the Farm Bill, and urged them to keep the pressure on lawmakers to get the job done.
“Heitkamp addressed farmers in Jamestown at the Precision Agriculture Action Summit and in Fargo at the Crop Insurance Conference 2014.
“‘After three years of debate, we are now closer than ever to passing a long-term, comprehensive Farm Bill,’ said Heitkamp.”
The update noted that, “Heitkamp stressed the importance of maintaining a strong crop insurance system. She highlighted the crop insurance provisions she pushed for in the Senate-passed bill, including: additional crop insurance supports for new and beginning farmers; a provision to make sure disaster years don’t unfairly harm production histories, resulting in weaker coverage for farmers; and a provision to make permanent the enterprise units system that has been very successful in North Dakota.”