On the House Floor Friday, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) discussed the upcoming floor schedule and the Farm Bill (video replay and transcriptavailable here).
Rep. Cantor stated that, “Chairman Frank Lucas and the members of the Agriculture Committee have worked very hard to produce a 5-year farm bill with strong reforms, and I look forward to a full debate on the floor.”
Seemingly less confident that the measure will reach a vote on the floor, Rep. Hoyer indicated that, “If I can ask him [Cantor] a question initially about the farm bill, which has obviously been very controversial in the past, still remains controversial in many ways, and I’m wondering, in light of the fact that the Senate passed a farm bill in a pretty bipartisan way, 66–27, with 18 Republicans voting in favor, but I know the Speaker has observed the divisions within the Republican Conference, and obviously there are some divisions within our caucus as well, and I’m wondering whether or not in fact the gentleman is confident that we will get to completion and a vote on the farm bill next week.”
Rep. Cantor replied: “I would respond by saying that it’s certainly our intention to complete deliberation on the farm bill. The Speaker has continued to commit himself and our conference to an open process for this House, and I look forward to a robust debate on what, as the gentleman knows, has been a bipartisan effort at the committee.”
An update posted yesterday at the Oklahoma Farm Report Online noted that, “The Chairman of the House Ag Committee, Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas, talked with Farm Director Ron Hays about the latest farm bill developments on Thursday morning.” (A replay of the discussion with Chairman Lucas and Ron Hays is available here).
The Oklahoma Farm Report update added that, “Lucas told Hays he expects the farm bill to come up on the House floor next week, assuming that the whip count shows that they are close to the 218 votes needed for final passage. He expressed his hope that by Monday the Rules Committee would put out a call for amendments – which he expects hundreds of. Lucas says he has had conversations with the Chairman of the House Rules Committee and that he is expecting the Rules Committee will sort through the amendments, realize redundancy isn’t a good use of time and limit the number of amendments on each subject.
“The Lucas definition of an ‘open discussion’ on the floor of the House is not for every one of two or three hundred amendments to be heard and possibly voted on- but for all major points of view to have their concerns aired and voted on. This would result in each of the major areas of the bill to be open for consideration in an open but orderly process and the Chairman believes the House will end up voting on 30 to 40 amendments covering every title- including food stamps, sugar, dairy, conservation and crop insurance.”
Jake Sherman reported yesterday at Politico that, “Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday he would vote for the House’s farm bill, despite reservations.”
At a news conference yesterday, Speaker Boehner had this exchange with a reporter, which was the last question at the briefing: “Would you vote for the farm bill (as it stands) today?
“Speaker Boehner: I’ve got concerns about the farm bills, I told our members. But doing nothing means that we get no changes in the farm program, no changes in the nutrition program. And as a result, I’m going to vote for the farm bill to make sure that the good work of the agriculture committee and whatever the floor might to do improve this bill, that it gets to a conference so that we can get the kind of changes that people want in our nutrition programs and our farm programs.”
Mr. Sherman pointed out in his Politico article that, “Passing the farm bill, which will come to the House floor this month, will be one of the toughest tasks for the Ohio Republican’s leadership team. Members of leadership are already working to assuage concerns about several of the bill’s provisions.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “A landmark five-year Farm Bill cleared the Senate on Monday evening, setting the stage for a long-delayed fight on the House floor next week over major revisions in agriculture policy and the future of food stamps.
“The 66-27 roll call exceeded last year’s margin with 18 Republicans joining Democrats on passage. And the increased GOP support makes it more difficult for Speaker John Boehner to walk away from the choices before him — as he did last summer.”
Mr. Rogers explained that, “Republicans are genuinely divided over the role of government in farm policy, with the speaker — a veteran of the House Agriculture Committee — engaged in his own personal war against a new milk- supply management proposal in both the House and Senate bills.
“Food-stamp reform and the deep cuts demanded by the House raise fundamental questions for both parties. On top of all this, nearly 200 of the 435 House members have never before been part of a farm bill debate given the immense turnover of recent years.
“The result could be a bloody free-for-all, driven by regional and ideological differences.”
Farm Bill: Senate Issues, Chairwoman Stabenow on C-SPAN
Pete Kasperowicz reported on Friday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “The Senate starts work at 2 p.m. [today], and will continue to debate the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744. At 5 p.m., debate will shift to the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act, S. 954.
“At 5:30 p.m., senators will vote on an amendment to the farm bill from Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), which would set up a pilot project for Internet projects in rural areas.
“After that, the Senate should be in a position to vote on final passage of the farm bill.”
Philip Brasher reported on Friday at Roll Call Online that, “Farmers know they’ll lose $5 billion in annual direct payments when a new farm bill passes. But up until now, few growers have complained about that prospect, because they know they can still count on buying federally subsidized crop insurance.
“However, those popular crop insurance policies may start coming with some strings attached. The Senate farm bill (S 954) would add a means test to the insurance program for the first time and would also begin requiring policyholders to comply with rules for protecting wetlands and preventing soil erosion.
“‘There is consternation out here in the countryside,’ said David Miller, director of research and commodity services for the Iowa Farm Bureau, that state’s largest and most powerful farm organization. The crop insurance restrictions are ‘making the Senate bill less attractive to people,’ he said.”
Mr. Brasher explained that, “The House Agriculture Committee’s farm bill (HR 1947) contains no new restrictions on crop insurance. But several amendments expected to be debated on the House floor include proposals to cap the amount of premium subsidies any one farmer can receive. The conservation compliance measure and adjusted gross income limit also are likely to be proposed as amendments.”
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “In a strong showing of support, the U.S. Senate voted 75-22 on Thursday morning to close off debate on amendments to the farm bill and move ahead to final debate on the legislation and one more vote likely on Monday to send the bill to the House.
“Thursday’s cloture vote allowed leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee to avoid other possible changes to the legislation and broke the gridlock over just how many amendments warranted debate. Twenty-two Republicans joined 53 Democrats in voting for the bill. All 22 votes opposing the cloture vote were Republicans.”
Mr. Clayton noted that, “The Senate bill would also tie conservation compliance to eligibility for crop-insurance premium subsidies. Following an amendment to the bill, people with more than $750,000 adjusted gross income would see their crop-insurance premium subsidies capped as well.”
A recent update at the Senate Democrats Online indicated that today, starting at 10:00 a.m., there will be three roll call votes on the Senate floor. The first vote will be on a motion to invoke cloture on S.954, the Farm bill.
Over 100 agricultural related groups signed a letter to Senators yesterday, which stated in part that, “The undersigned organizations are writing to strongly urge you to vote for cloture tomorrow on the consideration of S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “The Senate’s farm bill cloture vote Thursday morning poses a critical test for the Agriculture Committee leadership, which needs a strong showing to clear the way for passage Monday and begin to heal the breach sparked by revisions in the commodity title.”
The article noted that, “Impatient to move onto immigration reform, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) needs to have the decks cleared by early next week, and any Senate stall on the farm bill will be felt across the Capitol.
“All signs there still indicate that the week of June 17 is being set aside for what promises to be a stormy floor debate. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is becoming more engaged — pursuing his own campaign against a new dairy program. And House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) appeared encouraged after a meeting with his conference Tuesday morning.”
* Fifth District- Richmond- “Fluctuating temperatures coupled with heavy rainfall tempered plant growth and delayed spring plantings throughout the District. Despite wet conditions, forage crops were having a great spring, and pastures and hayfields were in good condition.”
* Sixth District- Atlanta- “Additional rains continued to improve drought conditions in Georgia and Florida. However, prolonged rainy periods and cool temperatures delayed planting of some crops. Since our last report, monthly prices paid to farmers for beef, broilers, corn for grain, and soybeans decreased while cotton prices increased slightly. Contacts continued to voice concern about citrus greening and its effect on Florida citrus crops while cotton producers reported China’s large cotton stocks were becoming a growing risk factor for domestic cotton production. Agricultural producers also reported that they are turning more and more to technology and other capital investments to improve production and reduce the need for labor.”
* Seventh District- Chicago- “Heavy precipitation in the District aided the recovery from last year’s drought by replenishing subsoil moisture. The rain also dramatically slowed planting of corn; farmers almost caught up, often by working around the clock once fields had dried sufficiently. However, the emergence of corn plants significantly lagged that of a typical year. Soybean planting progressed at about its normal pace once the corn crop was in the ground. Flooding from the heavy rains also resulted in river closures, delaying deliveries of agricultural products and farm inputs, particularly fertilizer. Current corn and soybean prices rose, as stocks remained low. Late planting pushed back the availability of new supplies into September. However, price declines were anticipated for the new crop in the fall, as concerns over major yield losses abated. Milk and hog prices moved higher; cattle prices were flat.”
* Eighth District- St. Louis- “Because of persistent rains, District farmers are behind their average planting schedules. Planting progress for cotton, rice, and soybeans in Mississippi was approximately half the 5-year average. Across all other District states, soybean planting progress was approximately 15 percent slower than its 5-year average. As of mid-May, well over 90 percent of the District’s winter wheat crop was rated in fair or better condition and close to 70 percent was rated as good or excellent.”
* Ninth District- Minneapolis- “While a late spring delayed planting, recent rains brought drought relief for District agricultural producers. According to the Minneapolis Fed’s first-quarter (April) survey of agricultural credit conditions, nearly 90 percent of respondents said farm incomes increased or held steady over the previous three months, with similar results for farm household and farm capital spending. Expectations for the second quarter were more moderate. District corn, soybean and spring wheat planting progress was behind average for late May, but producers were catching up quickly after a delayed spring. Prices increased from a year earlier for corn, wheat, soybeans, hay, eggs, chicken and dairy products; prices fell for hogs, turkey and dry beans, while cattle prices were flat. USDA forecasts call for substantially lower prices for corn and soybeans for the coming year, with slight reductions in wheat prices.”
* Tenth District- Kansas City- “Farm income growth softened since the last survey period, and farmland value gains moderated slightly. Farm income growth was limited by falling crop and livestock prices and by high production costs, particularly for fertilizer, seed and livestock feed and forage. Crop prices fell in early April with an announcement that grain supplies were higher than earlier estimates, although some District contacts expressed concerns about crop progress. Winter wheat crop conditions deteriorated further with much of the crop in relatively poor condition. The corn and soybean crops were behind schedule as unseasonably cold weather and late snows delayed spring planting in many areas. Demand for new farm loans remained weak, and contacts reported fewer requests for farm loan renewals and extensions. Farmland values continued to rise, but at a slightly slower pace than last year.”
* Eleventh District- Dallas- “Drought conditions continued to worsen slightly across most of the District over the reporting period, despite scattered rainfall. The Texas wheat crop suffered from dry weather and late freezes and production is expected to be significantly below average. Conditions for other crops are generally worse than at this same time last year but not quite as bad as in 2011.”
* Twelfth District- San Francisco- “Agricultural sales and production increased modestly. Demand for most crop and livestock products grew further. Grain production was robust, but contacts reported some variability in vegetable production. Some contacts remained concerned that limited water availability in parts of the District could pass through to lower seasonal hiring and reduced agricultural output in coming months.”
The Senate will not be in session on Wednesday as memorial observances for the Honorable Frank R. Lautenberg, the late Senator from the State of New Jersey take place.
Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money blog that, “[The cloture motion (60-vote threshold)] would create a Monday final vote on the farm bill…”
And David Rogers pointed out yesterday at Politico that, “Cloture is always a challenge, but having been through a lengthy amendment process in the last Congress, Stabenow has tried to save time — and win support — by including virtually all the major substantive provisions adopted by the Senate in floor debate a year ago.”
The Senate approved two amendments to the Farm Bill yesterday as Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) noted that (video replay), “I just want to thank colleagues for their diligence as we work through amendments on the Farm Bill. Our goal is to complete this by the end of the week.”
With respect to the first Farm Bill amendment passed yesterday, Ramsey Cox reported at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “The Senate approved a farm bill amendment that would require a study on risk management of growing alfalfa.
“On Monday, the Senate voted 72-18 for an amendment introduced by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). His amendment requires the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation to carry out research and development regarding a crop insurance program for alfalfa. He said his amendment had no cost to taxpayers” [related video of Sen. Moran explaining the amendment just before the vote can be viewed here, while more detailed remarks on the amendment can be seen in this news release yesterday from Sen. Moran’s office.]
An update at the Senate Democrats Online indicated that, “The Senate will convene at 2:00 p.m. on Monday, June 3, 2013…Following morning business, the Senate will resume consideration of S.954, the Farm bill.
“At 5:30pm, there will be up to 2 roll call votes in relation to the following: Moran amendment #987 (alfalfa) and Coons-Johanns #1079 (food aid) (possible voice vote).”
Erik Wasson reported on Saturday at The Hill Online that, “Senate Democrats and Republicans were unable to finalize an agreement on floor amendments to the $955 billion farm bill this week, leaving the work to be hashed out at the last minute.
“‘We’re still working with the minority for a time agreement and we’ll have a clearer sense then on which amendments will be called up probably by Monday afternoon or evening,’ a Democratic aide said late Friday.
“‘All of this is still in the works,’ a GOP aide emailed.”
Ryan Johnson reported yesterday at The Dickinson Press (N.D.) Online that, “The next five-year Farm Bill is progressing in the House, and representatives could vote on the legislation in the third week of June, Rep. Collin Peterson said Thursday.”
Mr. Johnson noted that, “But Peterson said there are serious questions over the opposition the House legislation will face, both from Republicans who want more spending cuts and Democrats who don’t support the bill’s $20.5 billion in cost savings to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program over the next decade.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D) continued to address Farm Bill issues in her home state of Michigan yesterday.
As the Senate’s Memorial Day state work period continues, Chairwoman Stabenow was a guest on yesterday’s Current State radio program (WKAR) where she noted that the legislation has “overwhelming support” in The Great Lakes State.
“Michigan is on every page of this Bill,” she said.
With respect to the House of Representatives, which did not take up the Agriculture Committee passed Farm Bill last year, Chairwoman Stabenow indicated that, “hopefully they will understand how important this is as a jobs bill, and a nutrition bill and be willing to pass it this year.”