The Farm Bill passed through the Senate Ag Committee in April and it passed a full Senate vote on whether to consider the massive bill on the floor with broad bi-partisan support late last week, 90-8.
NFU reports that senators may have as many as 300 floor amendments to offer on the bill, but that through behind the scenes negotiation the package of amendments will probably be cut down to 40 or less.
NFU President Roger Johnson recently lead a coalition of more than 125 food and consumer groups in calling for the Senate to quickly pass the 2012 Farm Bill – citing the fact that many current programs are expiring or are in danger of expiring.
“This strongly bipartisan bill ensures that agriculture does its part to reduce the deficit, cutting spending by $23 billion, while still maintaining a safety net that family farmers and ranchers need,” Johnson said.
“Some farm bill programs have already expired, and the rest expire on Sept. 30. It is critical to pass a farm bill as soon as possible so that Americans have the agriculture, conservation, environmental, forestry, hunger, and rural development programs that they need. While many of us will continue to work for improvements in the bill, we all agree that we need a farm bill this year,” Johnson said.
Most media reports of the Farm Bill’s move through the Senate have been focusing on the shift away from direct payments to farmers in favor of a larger crop insurance program. Farmers would be able to insure against poor yields and declines in prices as well as environmental calamity. Another hot topic is cuts to the food stamp program.
In all, the 2012 Farm Bill would cost the federal government around $969 billion over the next ten years. The Congressional Budget Office analysis of the bill says it will save around $23.6 billion relative to current programs and spending.
What About MDIS?
NFU has been promoting the concept of the Market Driven Inventory System, or MDIS, as the basis for commodity support programs in the Farm Bill. Essentially, the issue seems to be dead on arrival for Congress, but not necessarily on its merits as potentially good public policy.
In a conference call with staff of Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in April, the subject of MDIS was brought up. When asked what the likelihood was of MDIS getting traction during this 2012 debate, the answer was not likely – due to the fact that many senators were still not familiar enough with the proposal.
What Can You Do?
As the Senate debates the bill over the next two to three weeks, there will be amendments offered to the legislation and NFU staff is monitoring the situation closely. OFU has set up a 2012 Farm Bill page that will contain any legislative alerts issued by NFU with the relevant background on proposed policy and any appeals from NFU to contact legislators.
Your telephone calls, emails and letters make a difference. When NFU issues an alert, we’ll do our best to distill the relevant information and tell you what the proposed policy could mean for family farms and consumers. Emails and phone calls, expressing your opinion in your own words, can be powerful. Over the coming weeks as the bill moves through the Senate and on to the House, we’ll do our best to provide you the information you need to tell your senators and members of Congress where you stand on Farm Bill issues.