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June farm bill vote likely

DANIEL LOOKER 05/25/2012 @ 11:09am Business Editor

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) past chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said Friday that a June vote on the Senate version of a farm bill is likely, along with some amendments that could affect how the bill deals with crop insurance subsidies, which now total about $9 billion annually to both farmers and crop insurers.

Harkin said the upcoming vote was confirmed by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who currently heads the committee.

"I talked to Senator Stabenow yesterday and it looks like we will be on the floor mid-June with the farm bill," Harkin told Agriculture.com. A date has not been set yet, he said.

The bill has been formally introduced in the Senate, according to a statement released Thursday by Stabenow.

"This bill has strong bipartisan support from Senators across the country and I am looking forward to beginning floor consideration soon," Stabenow said. "We look forward to continuing to build on the Senate Farm bill’s broad bipartisan support to enact a Farm Bill this year before the current one expires.  Agriculture supports 16 million jobs in our country, and it is absolutely critical to provide farmers the certainty they need by passing a Farm Bill this year."

When asked if he expects the floor vote to include amendments that might limit subsidies on farmer's crop insurance premiums, Harkin said "I assume there were be some amendments on that."

Senators Tom Coburn (R-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) have said they plan to propose limits to farmer subsidies. A recent study Coburn requested from the Government Accountability Office said that the USDA could save $1 billion a year if premium subsidies were capped at $40,000 per farmer.

Harkin also said that he expects to see amendments that would tie conservation compliance to eligibility for crop insurance. Those who favor linking compliance to insurance argue that it should be a requirement now that crop insurance has become the largest USDA program for producers.

"I tend to agree with that," Harkin said.

On Thursday, Harkin said in a press release that he was glad President Barack Obama was advocating the renewal of the wind energy production tax credit when he visited Newton, Iowa.

On Friday, Harkin said the only thing preventing the renewal of the tax credit is deciding how it would be paid for without increasing the federal deficit.

Harkin expects it to be renewed when Congress deals with other expiring tax measures at the end of the year.

"I have told everyone in that industry...that we are going to extend it. I have no doubt about it," Harkin said.

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