Reports indicate that the Senate Agriculture Committee will release a draft farm bill today. The bipartisan draft will serve as the starting point for the Committee mark-up scheduled for April 25 and April 26.
It is expected that the draft will eliminate Direct Payments and emphasize supplemental revenue programs and crop insurance as the basis for future policy. It is not known whether the cotton industry’s proposed area-wide, shallow loss insurance product (STAX) will be included in the draft to be released today. NCC staff and key Cotton Belt Senators continue to work for inclusion of provisions, including STAX, that best meet Sunbelt agriculture’s needs. Committee staffers have reported that amendments are due on April 23.
It is believed that in most cases the legislation follows the proposal the committee made to a joint committee on deficit reduction last year. That proposal reduced projected spending under current law by $23 billion over 10 years. However, the commodity title of the proposal to be released today may be somewhat different from the version sent to the Joint Committee.
In recent statements to the press, Chairwoman Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Roberts (R-Kan.) have indicated that they want to include provisions that treat cotton fairly but that there has been significant pressure as a result of the Brazil case to consider modifications to the industry’s proposals. U.S. and Brazilian officials met in Washington for regularly scheduled consultations as required by the Framework Agreement under which Brazil has postponed retaliation against US exports while the new farm law is developed by Congress.
Chairwoman Stabenow said the Committee will move through the bill, title by title, taking amendments, and may need more than one day to complete mark-up action. She also said a strong bipartisan vote is critical to persuading the Democratic Senate leadership to schedule a floor vote.
The commodity title is expected to be the most contentious while other titles may draw no amendments. One amendment that likely is to be considered is a new proposal by Sen. Grassley (R-Iowa) to further reduce payment limitations to $50,000 per legal entity for all program benefits and re-establish a limit of $75,000 on marketing loan gains. His proposal also tightens actively engaged in farming rules.