Ag Policy Blog

Ag Amendments Dropped in Senate CR Debate

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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With Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pushing for a final vote on the Senate's Continuing Resolution, or CR, for the fiscal-year 2013 budget, some ag-related amendments won't get a debate.

One of the big ones left hanging is the amendment being offered by Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., that would have avoided furloughs for "essential" federal employees. As I talked with Blunt about this last week, the amendment would apply to all agencies and employees ranging from air-traffic controllers to USDA meat inspectors. It would have essentially given departments such as USDA flexibility to shift money around to avoid furloughing those workers. The amendment, however, was not one of the few allowed for final debate.

There is discussion that Senate leaders would let the language offered by Blunt and Pryor to be considered as a resolution.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., also had two amendments that didn't make the final cut. One would have stripped out language in the CR that would require USDA to approve the harvest and sale of crops from a biotech seed even if there is a court order declaring that the environmental studies on the crop were inadequate. The language in the CR is comparable to language that was in the House farm bill last year. The provision would require USDA to issue a permit to the farmer to harvest the crop. While the anti-biotech crowd opposes the provision, several major agricultural groups opposed the language in the House farm bill last year, fearing potential problems mainly with exports.

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Tester offered an amendment to strip it out, calling it a corporate giveaway in the bill.

The National Farmers Union issued also issued a release Tuesday citing the group's disappointment that another Tester amendment on the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration won't be debated.

The CR has a provision that basically stops GIPSA from implementing enforcement of provisions left over from the livestock and poultry marketing provisions in the 2008 farm bill. The poultry language is interesting considering Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., committee ranking member Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Ag Approps Subcommittee Chairman Mark Pryor, D-Ark., all come from major poultry-producing states.

One amendment that will get a vote Wednesday comes from Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who wants to take $60 million from the military's biofuels projects and shift the funds to military maintenance. Toomey has a major military maintenance facility facing military layoffs because of sequester cuts.

Vilsack: USDA to "Claw Back" Farmer Payments

While I was spending time Tuesday reporting on issues with the inland waterways, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was speaking to the Agribusiness Club as part of the Ag Day festivities in Washington.

As DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom reported in The Hagstrom Report, some farmers will have to pay back $151 million in payment they received through the Milk Income Loss Contract program, the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program, or SURE, and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance program.

The "claw back" will affect about 350,000 farmers who will have to pay back small amounts of money. But, as Hagstrom reported, more than 90% of those affected receive direct payments so USDA will simply reduce those payments rather than ask the farmers to send money back.

“You know how difficult that is going to be, how irritating that is going to be,” Vilsack said in a speech to the Agribusiness Club. “We’re going to take a forward look and will take money from direct payments, therefore eliminating the need for producers to send a check.”

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN.

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