House Marks Up, Senate Passes Farm Bill

The House Agriculture Committee marked up its Farm Bill on July 11, sending the package to the full House for consideration. The current Farm Bill expires on September 30. Overall, the bill would cut Agriculture Department spending by $35 billion over 10 years, or $12 billion more than the Senate. Almost all the additional cuts come from food stamps.

The bill, known as the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM) maintains crop insurance as the primary risk management tool for farmers and ranchers. In a press statement, Chairman Frank Lucas of Oklahoma and Ranking Member Collin Peterson of Minnesota called FARRM “a bipartisan bill that saves taxpayers billions, reduces the nation’s deficit, and repeals outdated policies while reforming, streamlining, and consolidating others.”

The bill is awaiting floor time and an eventual vote in the House of Representatives.

The Senate approved the bi-partisan 2012 Farm Bill on June 21 with an overwhelming majority vote — 64 to 35. The bill passed by the Senate contains two controversial crop insurance amendments that lack widespread support from most farm and ranch groups.

One amendment, sponsored by Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) would apply income caps for farmers and ranchers who wish to purchase crop insurance. The other amendment, sponsored by Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) would require mandatory farmers purchasing crop insurance to comply with strict soil conservation erosion standards.

In its coverage of the passage of the two amendments, DTN noted that in both cases, a majority of the Senate Agriculture Committee voted against the provisions, including both Chairman Stabenow and Committee Ranking Member Roberts. DTN speculated that the lack of support for both amendments is “a strong indication that without similar language coming out of the House, Coburn-Durbin is unlikely to make the cut” in the final bill that will come out of conference committee.

In a letter to Senator Stabenow following passage of the bill, a large number of national farm groups and lending institutions expressed their opposition to “amendments that will limit participation in crop insurance by producers, including efforts to impose means testing and limit premium support, and those that threaten efficient and effective private sector delivery.”

The American Association of Crop Insurers (AACI) and the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau (CIRB) applauded the passage of the bill, noting “farmers from across the country, agribusinesses, and the nation’s lending community sent a unified message to Congress this year: Do no harm to crop insurance.”

Both organizations also pointed out the critical role crop insurance played in 2011 while also underscoring the $12 billion in budget cuts the policy has endured since 2008. “As crop insurance takes a more prominent role in risk management strategies for farmers and ranchers, Congress should look for ways to strengthen crop insurance, not weaken it.”