The Senate Agriculture committee met today to consider amendments to the Committee’s draft Farm Bill. While there are many issues the Council is following in the Farm Bill, our top priority is to re-link crop insurance premium subsidies to conservation compliance as was the case prior to 1996. The Farm Bill that came out of the Senate Agriculture committee today re-establishes that link. An amendment to the Committee Bill by Senator Hoeven (R-ND) that would have stuck the tie between Conservation Compliance and crop insurance failed in committee.
The final Committee bill was amended to include the Conservation Compliance compromise language that was jointly agreed to by 32 ag commodity groups and national conservation organizations on May 6th. This language was a compromise over what was in the original committee bill and in the Senate Farm Bill last year. One of the problems we had with the compromise language is the agreement that there will be no caps or means testing on public subsidies for crop insurance premiums. The original Senate Agriculture Committee draft had a reduction in crop insurance premium subsidies for farmers making more than $750,000 per year.
The compromise is not perfect, but we consider this a success. The next step in the Farm Bill process is House Agriculture Committee markup scheduled for tomorrow (Wed. May 15). Later this month we expect both the House and Senate to bring their Farm Bills to the floor for a vote. Ultimately, the House and Senate versions will likely end up in a Conference Committee to work out differences in the two bills, which will then need to be voted on again in the House and Senate.
Susan Heathcote is the Council’s water program director.