No Farm Bill Veto Threat

Senate Taking up Amendments Wednesday on CRP, Possibly Payment Limits

The House passed its version of the farm bill last week on a partisan vote. Ag Committee leaders in the Senate are counting on a more bipartisan outcome with their vote this week. (DTN file graphic)

WASHINGTON, (DTN) -- The Trump administration on Tuesday released a statement of administration policy that did not threaten to veto the Senate version of the farm bill.

The statement said the Trump administration wishes the bill included work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries, conservation changes proposed in the administration's budget and changes to food aid.

In the statement, the Office of Management and Budget said, "The administration looks forward to working with the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee to address these and other issues with the farm bill as the process moves forward."

The Senate is likely to move to full consideration of the farm bill and begin debating amendments Wednesday, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said before the Senate adjourned Tuesday.

The Senate is likely to hold a voice vote to proceed to the bill, a Senate press gallery aide said.

Roberts, on the Senate floor Tuesday, said a new farm bill is needed to deal with trade promotion and research programs. He pointed to some of the current problems with trade.

"Today, we're losing markets. Kansas wheat is not going to Mexico. Mexico is buying its wheat from Argentina," Roberts said, adding Mexico is buying corn from Brazil.

Imposing tariffs boomerangs back on farmers, Roberts explained. "Retaliation comes directly on our producers in agriculture. That's why we have to get this bill passed."

Roberts said the first amendment that will be considered is a conservation amendment to be offered by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

Stabenow said, "Hopefully, we're on the road to getting this done this week."

On the Senate floor Tuesday, Thune said CRP plays a significant role in South Dakota's economy, including providing a habitat for pheasants, which brings in $200 million a year to the state's economy just from hunting.

"But farmers have spent years frustrated with the Department of Agriculture's management of the CRP program, particularly the program's sometimes excessive restrictions on land use and requirements to destroy vegetative cover under midcontract management, even in drought years when feed supplies are short," Thune said.

The Senate farm bill raises the cap in the Conservation Reserve Program by 1 million acres for a total of 25 million acres. Thune's amendment also would allow landowners to hay or graze up to one-third of their CRP acreage every year, in exchange for a 25% decline in the rental payment.

Thune's language could change once the amendment lands on the floor as he was negotiating with Roberts and Stabenow to tweak the provision in a way that is palatable to both of them.

Also on deck, but little mentioned Tuesday, is the payment-limits amendment proposed by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. The senator spoke at length Tuesday with reporters about his proposal. He maintains too many people right now who do not actually farm are milking the farm bill for millions of dollars in commodity payments.

"I believe in a limited safety net to keep farmers from being put out of business by things that are beyond their control like natural disasters," Grassley said. "I do not believe in an unlimited safety net that grossly distorts markets and makes it easy for non-farmers to game the system."

Grassley's proposal would tighten active engagement in farm programs. He told reporters the plan would benefit younger farmers who now have trouble buying land or renting because of non-farmer landlords collecting payments. His language on active engagement targets less than 2% of people eligible for farm programs, the ones "who are gaming the system," he said.

"I can't defend subsidies that go to Wall Street or people who live in beach houses," Grassley said. "That is why I have advocated for these reforms for so many years."

Referring to beach houses, Grassley gave a nod to a recent report from the Environmental Working Group showing one of the largest farm-subsidy recipients living in a multi-million-dollar Florida beach house.

Grassley also lashed out a little bit at the House version of the farm bill, which would make it easier to enroll extended family in farm programs "so every third cousin, niece and nephew can be a manager of the farm and get the maximum that the law allows," he said.

Chris Clayton can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN