The Senate Agriculture Committee cleared a new five-year farm bill Tuesday by a speedy 15-5 vote, but heated floor debates are expected over issues such as jobs, crop insurance, food stamps, disaster relief, rural development and the legalization of hemp, an issue not now in the bill but pushed by Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul, both of Kentucky, with state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, the state's other statewide elected Republican.
McConnell was the only Republican from the South to vote against the bill in committee, reports David Rogers of Politico
. Also voting no were Democrat Kristen Gillibrand of New York and Republicans Pat Roberts of Kansas, Mike Johanns of Nebraska and John Thune of South Dakota.
“This is not a reform bill,” said Roberts, right
. “This is a rear-view mirror bill.” He said target prices set for rice and peanuts are “essentially guaranteeing that a
farmer profits if yields are average or above average.” (Read more
The bill calls for the elimination of more than 100 programs, in some
cases consolidating programs to save money while still providing needs, reports Bob Meyer of Brownfield.
"By closing loopholes, cracking down
on abuse and improving program integrity, the bill reduces the
deficit without cutting standard benefits or removing any needy family
from the program."
The bill should save taxpayers money "while providing farmers with a responsible risk management
system that only helps farmers when they experience substantial losses
due to events beyond their control," Meyer reports
The House Agriculture Committee is marking up its own bill today. "The House debate is the more pivotal, especially after the tortured history of the last Congress," Rogers reports. "Chairman Frank Lucas, left,
appeared firmly in control and signaled he would work into the night in order to complete committee action. But the Oklahoma Republican must navigate a narrow path between food stamp cuts that have angered Democrats and the bill’s commodity title, which often defies his own GOP leadership. Two votes Wednesday highlighted these tensions, which will surely spill over into House floor debate slated next month."
By 26-20, a narrower margin than last year, the panel endorsed "a new dairy program strongly opposed by Speaker John Boehner," and by 27-17 it backed Lucas's plan to cut $20.5 billion from food stamps and other nutrition programs over the next decade. "Nearly two million beneficiaries could be dropped from the food stamp rolls as a result of the program changes, which would reinstate a $2,000 federal asset test that not been adjusted for inflation since it was first imposed in the 1980s," Rogers reports
. The second page of his story has a good, short summary of the dairy issue.
UPDATE, 11:43 p.m.:
The House committee approved the bill 36-10.