Friday, October 26, 2007

Senate's Farm Bill moves through committee, but it will face challenges on the floor

The Senate Agriculture Committee approved its draft of the Farm Bill yesterday, after Chairman Tom Harkin of Iowa compromised on changes to a new subsidy program. The $288 billion measure "would authorize farm, conservation, food stamps and other programs for five years, replacing the 2002 farm bill, which expired in September," reports Philip Brasher from the Washington, D.C., bureau of the Des Moines Register.

Committee members fought over an optional subsidy program designed to pay farmers when crop revenues fall below statewide average. The existing program lets farmers collect when prices fall below certain levels. "Plains-state senators, led by Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Kent Conrad, D-N.D., forced Harkin to agree to changes in the revenue-protection program," Brasher writes. "The changes would make it more appealing to wheat growers - and less so to corn growers - and protect crop insurance companies and their agents from a cut in premiums."

Subsidies will be part of the debate on the Senate floor, especially since Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, wants to impose a $250,000 cap on the payments any one farm can collect in one year. The $5 billion fund created to help farmers during disasters also will face challenges.

Accompanying Brasher's report is an excellent chart that explains the key differences between the Senate's version of the Farm Bill and the one passed by the House in July. (Read more) Here are other reports on the Farm Bill from The Washington Post, the Omaha World-Herald and The Chicago Tribune, and a nice roundup from the Iowa Independent, with links to a wide range of reports and press releases. Good weekend reading!

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