With a vote on the Senate farm bill expected sometime this week, lawmakers will continue with votes on a series of wide-ranging amendments on Wednesday. Earlier this week, in a deal between parties to move the legislation, the list of amendments to receive votes was trimmed from some 300 to 73. 

Among amendments already voted on:

  • An amendment passed that would repeal the USDA catfish inspection program. Mandated in the 2008 farm bill, the inspection program was yet to be implemented. (For more, see here)
  • An amendment to reduce crop insurance sales costs to restore some $4.5 billion in cuts to nutrition program spending was defeated.
  • An amendment that would have placed more strict eligibility standards for nutrition program recipients was defeated.
  • An amendment that would prevent states from increasing nutrition program roles/benefits via a federal home heating assistance program was defeated.
  • An amendment to place a $250,000 adjusted gross income eligibility marker for farmers was defeated.
  • An amendment that places a $75,000 cap on marketing loan pay limits passed the Senate.
  • An amendment to end mandatory crop checkoff funds was defeated. This amendment was offered by South Carolina Sen. Jim Demint, who courted controversy last fall with his views on a checkoff favored by Christmas tree farmers (more here).
  • An amendment to support rural development passed the Senate. The amendment would ensure funding of USDA Rural Development programs such as updating wastewater and sewer infrastructure systems, provide farmers with access to capital, and provide technical assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers.

Among amendments yet to be voted on:

  • A ban on EPA flyovers/aerial surveillance of farmland under the Clean Water Act.
  • An amendment to eliminate the Conservation Reserve Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program.

With such a draft farm bill and amendment votes what message is being sent from the Senate to the House prior to a farm bill conference?

During a Wednesday morning press conference, Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said one of the “great things” about deficit reduction efforts and the “super committee” process last fall, was a coming together of Senate and House agriculture leadership. “We agreed to come up with $23 billion in deficit reduction under our jurisdiction. Unfortunately, we were the only (ones) who did that. If everyone had done that within their areas of jurisdiction, we’d have had a big deficit reduction proposal. That didn’t happen.

“But one of the positives out of that is (the House and Senate agriculture leaders) really developed a great working relationship. I’ve been keeping (House leaders) apprised of what we’re doing. I have great confidence in them and, once we move this out of the Senate, I believe they’ll be successful in reporting a bill out of (the House Agriculture Committee).”

The broad parameters agreed to last fall “are maintained” in the Senate farm bill, said Stabenow. While not enamored with the Senate bill, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, House Agriculture Committee ranking member, has said any problems – presumably including those that still remain for rice and peanuts -- can be fixed during conference.

An amendment being prepped last week from Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss and South Dakota Sen. John Thune would have allowed rice and peanut producers target price supports. After speaking with Stabenow, the senators withdrew the amendment believing that the issues for the crops will be best addressed in conference.