Given the Farm Bill’s chance of enactment this year is all about timing, it has to be ready for conference action by September at the latest. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D, MI) is pushing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) to make good on his pledge to get the bill to the floor.
She is supported in this effort by a letter last week from more than 100 of the nation’s major commodity groups who called for quick action on the bill. However, Stabenow and her panel’s ranking member, Sen. Pat Roberts (R, KS), continue to try and placate southern Senators who continue to rail against the pro-Midwest/anti-South configuration of the panel’s approved replacement of direct payments with a shallow loss Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program.
Reid, who’s pledged to find floor time for the bill if Stabenow produced a product with bipartisan support, hasn’t given the ag chair a date, but staff say it’s likely not until after the Memorial Day recess at the earliest.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, KY) says the bill will need at least a week to complete. Meanwhile, House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R, OK) says his committee will wrap up its Farm Bill hearings by the end of May and will be ready to dive into full committee mark-up by early to mid June.
New hearings scheduled this week by the House ag panel include a May 16-17 hearing in the general farm commodities and risk management subcommittee on Farm Bill commodity programs and crop insurance, and a May 18 hearing in the conservation, energy and forestry subcommittee on energy and forestry programs in the Farm Bill.