Senate farm bill plods along
The Senate is still treading water with its 2013 farm bill, passing only two amendments Monday while its agriculture committee leadership negotiated behind the scenes to limit the number of amendments to be considered.
"Our goal is to complete this by the end of this week," Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said on the Senate floor.
By a vote of 72 to 18 the Senate approved an amendment that directs USDA to study providing crop insurance for alfalfa. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced the amendment.
The Senate also voted for a modest, $20 million increase in spending on an experimental USDA program that allows food for international aid to be purchased locally.
Oxfam America, a food aid group that has championed broader reforms, had this reaction:
“This change to the farm bill, while small, will help our aid programs reach more hungry people with life-saving assistance. We are glad to celebrate any improvement, however modest, that can bring our food aid programs into the 21st century," said Eric Munoz, the group's senior policy adviser. "However, this modest improvement should not be used an excuse to put aside bigger changes that are desperately needed.”
Meanwhile, the House is preparing to debate its version of a farm bill as early as next Monday, June 17.
The House Agriculture Committee's ranking Democrat, Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota, told members of the National Grange that passage isn't going to be easy.
"If we can't get the votes then I think we're done until the next election," Peterson said during his luncheon address at the National Press Club. "But this might be the last Farm Bill."
In spite of nearly $21 billion in proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which accounts for nearly 80% of the farm bill's cost, Peterson said some Republicans still may not budge.
"Some Republicans tell me that the high water mark among the Republican Caucus is 150 (votes)," Peterson said. "I agreed to the SNAP cuts because [Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank] Lucas thought it's what needed to be done in order to get the votes. For some of them, $21 billion isn't enough. For some of them, $100 billion wouldn't be enough."
Peterson said he and Lucas (R-OK) believe limiting the number of amendments to no more than 30 that can be added to be bill is necessary to allow it to pass.