Farm Bill Pressure

Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow would like to begin a mark-up of the farm bill this Thursday - but North Dakota Senator John Hoeven says it may not happen until next Tuesday. Hoeven says Senate Ag will take the bill it passed last year and use it as a starting point - but some changes will be made. Hoeven anticipates the countercyclical program to be added again, the revenue program to stay - but be a little slimmer - as the Senate will have to trim about 10-billion dollars from the bill passed last year. Stabenow's mark is anticipated to include provisions for small cuts to food stamps, to curb crop insurance subsidies for high-income farmers and develop national standards for chicken cage sizes for egg production.

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand expects the committee to consider cutting food stamps by 4.1-billion dollars over 10 years - a move she will oppose because she says the cuts would result in an average benefit reduction of 90-dollars per month for nearly 500-thousand households. As for crop insurance - Stabenow's mark should include Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn's amendment to reduce insurance premium subsidies for farmers with an adjusted gross income above 750-thousand-dollars. Forty groups - including the National Crop Insurance Services - oppose any provisions that limit crop insurance participation - saying limiting support to producers creates barriers to participation for those trying to obtain risk management protection - while also impacting the financial health of the ag community. Stabenow also plans to include California Senator Dianne Feinstein and Maine Senator Susan Collins' bill to develop a uniform standard across the U.S. for egg-laying hen cage sizes. Stabenow Spokesman Cullen Schwarz says egg producers are struggling with a patchwork of regulations varying from state to state - so Stabenow is working with stakeholders and ag committee members to find a solution to keep American egg producers in business.

As for the House - Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Friday he is committed to moving a five-year farm bill this summer. However - passage of a sweeping farm bill is not a sure thing in the House - as Conservative groups criticize the farm subsidies as corporate welfare and have pushed for deep cuts to food stamps Democrats are unlikely to accept. Still - the leaders of both ag committees have stated they want to finish the farm bill before completing reauthorization of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Congress is scheduled to leave for Memorial Day recess on May 24th.

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