Ag Policy Blog

Senate Moves Ahead with Farm Bill Debate

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent

The Senate late Monday voted to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed with the farm bill, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate will have the opportunity to finalize the bill this week.

The required roll call vote was 89 to 3. The only senators voting against proceeding with the bill were Republicans Dean Heller of Nevada and Mike Lee of Utah and Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The vote followed approval of a “minibus” of three appropriations bills — energy and water, military construction and veterans affairs, and legislative branch.

Earlier Monday, McConnell said he expected the Senate to turn to the farm bill after the vote on the appropriations bills.

McConnell said the Senate Agriculture Committee, with the leadership of Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., “has continued its tradition of addressing he needs of America’s farmers and ranchers with the serious bipartisanship they deserve, and today the needs are great.”

“In the case of declines in farm income, growers and producers need certainty and stability,” McConnell said. “That’s what this farm bill would help provide.

“The committee reported the farm bill to the full Senate by an overwhelming bipartisan margin. This week we’ll have a chance to pass the bill in the same fashion. On behalf of the farmers of my home state of Kentucky and around the country I hope each senator will take advantage of this opportunity.”

On Tuesday the Senate will convene at 10 a.m. with leader remarks and resume consideration of the motion to proceed to the farm bill, but will recess from 12:30 to 2:15 p.m. for the weekly party caucus lunches.

A spokeswoman for Roberts said he is likely to speak about the farm bill on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

There is no certainty about farm bill amendments at this time.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said Monday it expects Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to offer amendments on payment limitations.

NSAC said the Grassley amendment is likely to maintain the cap on annual commodity program benefits at $125,000 per farmer ($250,000 with spouse), while limiting all farms to not more than one additional payee who is not actively working on the farm on a significant basis.

The Durbin amendment, NSAC said, would reduce the level of federal premium support for crop and revenue insurance participants with an adjusted gross income (AGI) over $700,000 (for single individuals, double or more for most married couples) by 15 percentage points for all buy-up policies beyond catastrophic coverage.

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