January 19, 2020

Weekend Update: Farm Bill Developments

Categories: Farm Bill

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.’”

Mr. Rogers pointed out that, “Later Friday, in outlining the legislative schedule for next week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also listed a farm bill conference report as one of the items for possible consideration. As it is, the House is on a shortened schedule, returning Monday but then only staying through Wednesday — demanding a quick turnaround for the farm bill but not an unattractive scenario for its proponents if they can, in fact, get a deal together Monday.”

Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “Members of Congress have been alerted that a deal on the $1 trillion farm bill, stalled for the last three years, could come on Monday, allowing for a House floor vote next week.

“The alert went out from the House Agriculture Committee to members of the farm bill conference committee requesting that they return to town by Monday for action on the stalled legislation.”

Mr. Wasson explained that, “[The alert] said that Monday could feature a conference meeting to vote on unresolved issues or a Republican conference meeting to sign the conference report. Either scenario would lead to a bill being filed with the Rules Committee by Monday night in order to allow a Wednesday vote under the House three-day layover rule.

“Final issues in the farm bill have included how to structure dairy subsidies and how to deal with payment limits for subsidy and loan deficiency payments to farmers.”

Kristina Peterson reported yesterday at the Washington Wire Blog (Wall Street Journal) that, “Lawmakers hope to finalize an agreement between House and Senate negotiators on a new five-year farm bill by early next week, aides from both parties said Friday.”

Ms. Peterson noted that, “The farm bill had a tumultuous path through the House last year, failing once on the floor before Republicans opted to split apart farm programs and funding for food stamps. Some lawmakers on both the right and left have already criticized the proposed changes to the nutrition programs and the bill is expected to need the support of some Democrats to pass the House.”

And Pete Kasperowicz reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “Members may also consider a House-Senate conference report on the farm bill, H.R. 2642. But as of Friday, it wasn’t clear if this vote would take place, or on what day it could happen.”

Meanwhile, Mikkel Pates reported yesterday at Agweek Online that, “Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, announced at a meeting in Comstock, Minn., on Jan. 23, that the farm bill had hit another snag late in the day.

Payment limits are the current hang-up in passing the farm bill, and have been for the past week, Peterson said.

“‘The biggest problem is the ‘actively engaged’ language,’ Peterson told Agweek, blaming the issue on language that Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is insisting on. ‘It says that unless you put 1,000 hours on a tractor you can’t get any payments from the government. Nobody does that anymore. What farmer puts 1,000 hours in on a tractor? They hire people to do that. Under his rules you couldn’t get a payment.’”

The AgWeek article noted that, “‘First, there is nothing in the bill that says you have to actually sit on a tractor to reach the 1.000 [sic] hours of active farming,’ says Beth Levine, communications director for Grassley. ‘Second, land owners are not subject to the 1,000 hours. There is also an exemption for one additional farm manager (plus a spouse).’”

Christinia Crippes reported yesterday at the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier (Iowa) Online that, “‘I think two things: dairy and my payment limitation amendment’ are currently holding up the bill’s passage, Grassley said during a stop Wednesday afternoon at the University of Northern Iowa. ‘But I believe, I still believe that these are going to be resolved, maybe not to my satisfaction, but I believe that they’re going to be resolved by next week.’”

The update added that, “Like Grassley, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is optimistic that a deal is closer to a reality. Both senators sit on the Senate’s agriculture committee, but neither serves on the conference committee assigned to work out the differences on the bills.”

Also yesterday, Lou Mumford reported at the South Bend Tribune (Ind.) Online that, “[Rep. Fred Upton (R., Mich.)] said he spoke Tuesday to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, regarding a new five-year farm bill that the House could take up as soon as next week. He ‘pushed hard,’ Upton said, to extend federal insurance to cherry growers.

“Upton pointed to the 2012 spring frosts that wiped out virtually all of Michigan’s cherry harvest that year. One southwestern Michigan grower lost his entire crop and managed to remain in business only because his apple crop had been insured, the lawmaker said.”

Keith Good

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