Congress is out of session for its Memorial Day recess returning on Monday, June 3. It is expected that the Senate will resume debate and finish consideration of the Farm Bill followed by immigration reform when they return in June.
The Senate considered a wide array of amendments to the Farm Bill throughout the week with many more awaiting disposition.
Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.) and Patrick Toomey (Penn.) have filed an amendment, supported by the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), which would repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard in its entirety. An amendment, opposed by ASI, to prohibit mandatory commodity check-offs was filed by Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas). Neither amendment has yet been considered.
Sen. Kay Hagen (N.C.) offered an amendment that would allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to use crop insurance to reimburse farmers for losses incurred during insurance policy reviews. While the reviews are necessary to reduce waste and fraud, these investigations drive up the cost of the program for honest producers. The amendment passed by a vote of 94-0.
An amendment offered by Sens. Richard Durbin (Ill.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) that would terminate federal crop insurance subsidies for farmers who earn more than $750,000 annually was approved by a 59-33 vote. The amendment also provided for a USDA study on the effects of the provision to the crop insurance program prior to its implementation.
Chairman Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) strongly opposed the measure stating that such an amendment would jeopardize the historic agreement between environmental and commodity groups. Under the agreement, environmental organizations pledged to support continued insurance subsidies for federal crop insurance if qualified farmers met all conservation and wetland requirements.
The linkage between conservation compliance and crop insurance, as well as the $750,000 income limit, are not contained in the House version of the Farm Bill, which is expected to be on the House floor in early June.