Ag Policy Blog

Plan to Take the Farm Bill to the Floor Next Week

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent

Congressional leaders appear to be trying to bring up the farm bill in the House and Senate next week.

A spokesman for House Agriculture Committee Michael Conaway, R-Texas, told DTN on Friday that Conaway “hopes” to bring the bill to the floor next week.

Politico reported that Conaway said, “That's the game plan. I think we can get it done in the House.”

But Conaway added to Politico that the conference report cannot be filed until Tuesday when the House returns from its weekend recess.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the Senate will vote on the bill “as soon as we can get it there,” Politico also reported.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told The Hagstrom Report that there would be no scheduling announcement until the conference committee finishes its work on the conference report.

The Senate is scheduled to come back into session on Monday at 3 p.m. and begin votes at 5:30 p.m.

House and Senate agriculture committee staff are believed to be working on legislative text for the bill this weekend while the Congressional Budget Office finishes scoring the cost of the bill’s many provisions.

The negotiators have not revealed the contents of the farm bill but speculation about its contents continues.

It appears more likely that the bill will include House provisions to make it easier for nieces, nephews and cousins of farmers to become eligible for farm payments than it is to include the tighter payment limits that Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, managed to add to the Senate version of the bill.

Of the likely easing of qualification for payments, Grassley, who has campaigned for payment limits for years, on Thursday said, “Surprise, surprise, surprise,” according to the Food & Environment Reporting Network.

“You ought to be a real farmer if you’re going to get help from the farm program,” said Grassley. “You’re going to have Wall Street bankers getting subsidies. … They don’t have dirt under their fingernails.”

Early reports show the changes to Title 1 commodities are likely to include:

- An annual election between the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs rather than the system under the 2014 bill that required a one-time selection for the five year life of the farm bill.

- An opportunity to adjust historical yield data to minimize the impact of drought years and other anomalies including the use of trend adjusted yields similar to crop insurance.

-An increase in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres from 24 million to 27 acres.

-A 3-million-acre increase for a grassland reserve program for farmers whose continuously planted grass land will be removed from the farmer’s base.

The details of the conference report will depend on how the various titles affect the cost of the overall bill.

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at jhagstrom@njdc.com

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport

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