With the U.S. Senate passing its version of the 2012 U.S. Farm Bill Thursday, the next move is up to the House of Representatives to approve its own version. The two versions of the bill will then be reconciled to arrive at a compromise that will require approval of the full Congress and the signature of President Obama.
Farm bill passage in the Senate puts pressure on the House to get moving.
Rep. Frank Lucas, R. Okla., Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, issued the following statement Thursday after the Senate passed their version: "Although there will be differences between the Senate approach and our own, I hope my colleagues are encouraged by (the Senate’s) success when we meet to consider our own legislation.”
The House Agriculture Committee will consider a balanced proposal that saves taxpayers billions of dollars, recognizes the diversity of American agriculture, respects the risks producers face, and preserves the tools necessary for food production, according to Lucas
The House Agriculture Committee will mark up their own bill beginning July 11. “But it is not clear when the farm bill will come to the floor of the full House,” according to Rich Pottorff, Doane chief economist. “Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said he wants to “push the pause button” on the farm bill which is not on the summer schedule of the House.”
Indications are that the House version will look quite different from the Senate bill. “All the comments so far indicate that the House bill will include a counter-cyclical payment option and will cut food and nutrition programs by much more than was the case in the Senate bill,” Pottorff says.
The Senate version of the farm bill makes significant changes on crop insurance programs. “The Senate bill ends direct payments, counter-cyclical payments and the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program and creates a new Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program,” Pottorff adds. “One of the amendments that was attached to the original bill is a cap on eligibility for commodity programs. A farmer would not be eligible for the programs if his or her adjusted gross income tops $750,000.
The Senate version of the bill includes more than 70 proposed amendments and, if it is passed into law as is, the cost to taxpayers may reach $1 trillion. “The final cost of the bill, including the changes, has not been determined, but before the amendments, the Congressional Budget Office put the cost of the bill at $969 billion over 10 years,” says Pottorff. “That was about $23 billion less than if the current farm policies were continued.”
Those savings likely will not be enough for the House which may demand deeper cuts. Assuming that is the case, the final bill that emerges could have even more changes.
The current farm bill expires Sept. 30.