Senate Tackles Farm Bill

The 2007 Farm Bill — which hit the full U.S. Senate floor on Monday – is expected to pass, but the battle for proposed amendments could make the process interesting.

The proposed bill — sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) — first got the nod from the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, but not before the most controversial amendment was added. That amendment, proposed by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), is a new counter-cyclical payment option for grains, oilseeds, and cotton producers. Referred to as the Average Crop Revenue (ACR) program, the amendment is not popular with the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

In its Oct. 26 Corn Commentary newsletter, NCGA says ACR “stripped the crop insurance integration from the revenue package. Corn growers support an optional revenue program starting in 2010.” NCGA President Ron Litterer adds that “the amendment makes the revenue proposal a much less attractive option to growers.”

NCGA has received assurances from Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) that they will work toward a revenue package that is a viable option for corn producers.
Acting Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner gave a briefing Nov. 5 on the Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) that will be provided to Congress regarding the 2007 Farm Bill.

Senior administration advisors, based on the belief that the House and Senate bills are not fiscally responsible, recommended a veto. Of primary concern is $37 billion in additional spending, at least $7.5 billion of which will come from new taxes. Connor does not feel that the true cost of the bill is represented, remarking that it is “based on tax increases and budget gimmicks” and stating that it “makes a mockery of the budget process.” Connor described one of the SAP’s “very significant concerns” as the removal of funding after 2012 for some programs, which pushes payments out of the 2007 bill’s time frame but doesn’t reduce taxpayer expense. Such shifts in costs include $7 billion for food stamp programs, $3 billion in crop insurance payments, and $5 billion for disaster assistance.

The U.S. House of Representatives’ version of the Farm Bill was passed July 27.

 

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