Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Thursday 12/13/12

Time Slipping Away for Farm Bill Deal

Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota added to the calls of lawmakers pushing for a new farm bill to be completed before Congress adjourns.

Yet, a Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee called the idea of attaching the farm bill to a bill resolving the looming tax and budget issues a "Hail Mary."

Franken held a conference call with reporters on Thursday with the executive director of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

As with others wanting a farm bill passed, Franken said Thursday believes any legislation seeking to address the fiscal cliff should include a farm bill.

House and Senate agricultural leaders continue working to resolve conflicts in the commodity programs between the bill passed by the Senate and the House Agriculture Committee that House leaders refused to bring to the floor for a stand-alone debate.

Franken said he agrees with the frustrations expressed by House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., that some of the sticking points should have been negotiated earlier. Still, Franken said he believes differences could be resolved quickly.

Franken said that the farm bill has been top priority for him this year, particularly with the agricultural economy accounting for about one in five jobs in the state. The senator added he doesn't want to go into 2013 and start over.

"It feels like they are close enough that all of this can be done within a day or so, you know, if push comes to shove," Franken told reporters. "I really feel we still can do it and it still needs to be part of a end-of-year package."

While Franken advocated for rolling the farm bill into the fiscal-cliff package, Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., a member of the Senate Ag Committee, called that a "Hail Mary pass" in speaking to Nebraska reporters in a conference call. Johanns said time is running out for such possibilities. “I’d love to see a farm bill done by the end of the year, but again, I think trying to figure out how to get it done and then capture the savings for the fiscal cliff seems to me to be a very tall order," according to a Nebraska Radio Network report.…

The Nebraska Radio report also quoted outgoing Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat, who also said it seems unlikely that agricultural leaders in Congress could reach a conclusion with time slipping away.

DTN's Jerry Hagstrom reported Thursday that Senate Agriculture Committee leaders have offered to include a counter-cyclical program in the farm bill, but not at the floor prices in the House version of the bill. Groups such as the National Corn Growers Association and American Soybean Association also want to ensure any target-price program remains decoupled from actual production.

The Senate farm bill passed in June with 64 votes. Senators have cited the budget benefits of the legislation because it is projected to curb the growth of spending by $23 billion over the next 10 years. The House Agriculture Committee bill is scored at reducing the growth of spending by about $35 billion.

Reiterating some of the expectations that would come for commodity producers, it's likely farmers will have to make a one-time decision regarding whether they want to participate in revenue program or a target-price program. Economists this week at the DTN Ag Summit in Chicago added that the decision about a commodity program could also affect a farmer's choice for crop insurance program as well.

In particular, the commodity program choice affects the possible new Supplemental Coverage Option for crop insurance. Versions of the SCO are in both the House and Senate bill and would operate similar to a county-wide insurance program that could cover up to 90% of a farmer's revenue. Yet, a producer who signed up for the shallow-loss program may have a lower coverage level of a 79% under the SCO.

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Posted at 3:15PM CST 12/13/12 by Chris Clayton
Comments (3)
Perhaps congress is being highly irresponsible by granting a few high rollers annual million dollar insurance subsidies in addition to multimillion investment/profit guarantees. It is truly pathetic the many beginning and smaller farmers being denied opportunities to farm by congress recklessly targeting the greediest and largest with the most insurance benefits.
Posted by Lon Truly at 5:55PM CST 12/13/12
"If you ARE a 'Big Fish' or WANT to be a 'Big Fish', then you must always keep your self surrounded by a steady supply of 'Little Fish', otherwise, you will STARVE." The "Trickle Down Economy" was a Myth perpetuated by repeating a soundbite. Revenue, like Cream, always rises, and if not readily produced by the efforts of Small, Strong Farms and Businesses, you end with an Economy reminiscent of the current state of the Mississippi River.
Posted by Ric Ohge at 10:04AM CST 12/14/12
What we're likely to see first is the Omnibus Bill passed to "save us from the Fiscal Cliff". notably this has the infamous "Monsanto Rider" on it, that was pulled from the Senate Version of the Farm Bill earlier this year. For the largest Industrial Farmers, and of course for Biotech Companies, this rider allows deployment of new products without testing being completed by the FDA-just in time for Spring. Lot's of opportunity for "the right kind of Farms," and an opportunity for the rest of us to observe, that what is sown, may not be exactly what we'll reap.
Posted by Ric Ohge at 9:49AM CST 12/17/12
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