The Senate Agriculture Committee and the House Committee on Agriculture have both marked up and reported out Farm Bills this week. The Senate bill passed committee with a vote of 15-5 with Sen. Sherrod Brown voting for the bill and the House bill passed committee with a vote of 36-10 with Reps. Bob Gibbs and Marcia Fudge voting no. It is anticipated that the Senate bill will have floor consideration by the full Senate next week. The House has not yet scheduled the bill for a floor vote but the ultimate deadline is September 30 when the current 9-month extension of the 2008 Farm Bill expires.
Senate Farm Bill
The Senate version of the Farm Bill has over $23 billion in deficit reductions over 10 years including a $16 billion cut to the Commodity Title and $4 billion to the Nutrition Title.
The Commodity Title eliminates Direct Payments, the Average Crop Revenue Election Program and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE). A risk management program called Agriculture Risk Coverage is created with a price band set from 78 to 88 percent and a one-time option to choose individual or county coverage. The Senate has created a new target price program called the Adverse Market Payment Program.
Crop Insurance remains in the bill and through a compromise between 32 agricultural and conservation groups, the program has been linked to conservation compliance but a $750,000 Adjusted Gross Income limitation on premium assistance was removed.
The bill also creates the Supplemental Coverage Option allowing a farm to buy county insurance as an add-up to its individual farm coverage. Conservation programs are consolidated, combining 23 programs into 13. The Dairy Security Act is in the bill and includes both a margin and stabilization program.
During committee, Senator Brown was successful in including an amendment on rural economic development. In addition, he offered an amendment seeking to restore funding for several nutrition programs to the level passed in the 2012 Farm Bill.
House Farm Bill
The House version of the Farm Bill has over $38 billion in deficit reductions over 10 years including $14 billion to the Commodity Title, $20 billion to the Nutrition Title and $6 billion in the Conservation Title.
The Commodity Title repeals Direct Payments, Counter-Cyclical Payments, the Average Crop Revenue Election program and Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE). The bill allows farmers a choice between two options on a crop-by-crop and farm-by-farm basis. Price Loss Coverage (PLC) is a target price program while Revenue Loss Coverage (RLC) is a county revenue program similar to ARC in the Senate but requires a producer to experience at least a 15 percent loss.
Crop insurance remains in the bill with no reductions. The bill also creates the Supplemental Coverage Option allowing a farm to buy county insurance as an add-up to its individual farm coverage. Conservation programs are consolidated, combining 23 programs into 13. The Dairy Security Act is in the bill and includes both a margin and stabilization program.
Rep. Gibbs was successful in including several provisions in the bill including 1) requiring USDA to provide an annual report on the effects of the PLC and RLC programs on planting, production, price and exports and 2) prohibiting federal agencies from releasing personal, private information on any participant in Commodity or Conservation programs. Rep. Gibbs spoke to but withdrew his amendment to set the reference price in the PLC program at 80 percent of the 10-year congressional budget office average. In addition, he spoke to a failed amendment that would remove the stabilization portion of The Dairy Security Act leaving only the margin protection program. Rep. Gibbs’s no vote on the Farm Bill was due to his concern about target prices and the dairy stabilization program, however, he supports a 5-year Farm Bill and wants to see its consideration on the floor.
Rep. Fudge was also successful in including an amendment, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative. The program is a public/private partnership to assist with start-up costs in order to open grocery stores, farm markets, co-ops and other food retail outlets in those areas know as food deserts. These are urban areas without a food purchasing source within 1 mile or rural areas without a source within 10 miles.
After floor consideration from both chambers, differences will need to be worked out between the two versions before a Farm Bill is complete. In addition, to policy differences, much work will need to be done to balance out the nearly $15 billion separation in spending.