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Farm Bill Process Remains Contentious

Don Villwock

Progress is being made on a new Farm Bill, but  chances of getting one passed this year remain slim. It is the tale of two farm bills: one  in the Senate and one in the House.  Senate Ag Committee  chairman Senator Debbie Stabenow is on the verge of releasing a draft version for mark up by the committee, but House side has a much slower pace. Don  Villwock,  President of Indiana Farm Bureau, says the future of the Farm Bill process remains unclear, “My crystal ball is not very clear, and I think the folks in Washington will tell you the same.” He told HAT that this is the most contentious Farm Bill process he has ever seen.  Villwock added the Senate is taking the lead in the farm bill process, “If it were up to those in the Senate, we would have a Farm Bill this spring.” He says preserving funding for crop insurance will be a key area for which agriculture needs to fight.  He said there are strong efforts to cut crop insurance to save money, “This despite almost uniform support for a strong safety net for farmers based on crop insurance.”


Friday, the House Ag Committee will hold its final Farm Bill field hearing in Dodge City, KS. Committee member Tim Huelskamp says it will be very difficult to get a Farm Bill passed by Congress “because we have a very short timeline and a very Urban-oriented Congress.” Notwithstanding the pressure to cut spending, Huelskamp remains optimistic that Congress will pass a Farm Bill this year.


House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas announced another series of hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill to begin next week in Washington, D.C. The six Subcommittees will hold hearings throughout April and May to hear from national agricultural stakeholders advocating for policy priorities. It is the next step in the Farm Bill development. “We are continuing our efforts to gather as much information as possible so we can write sound and effective farm policy that works for all of agriculture. We have reviewed spending trends and have heard from our producers on the ground. Now it’s time for national agricultural leaders and stakeholders to present their views on farm policy,” said Lucas.


Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says, if Congress can act by August, the Farm Bill stands a chance of passage this year.  Any longer than  that and  it will likely be the 2013 Farm Bill. He says it’s clear the Senate Ag Committee plans to begin to mark up its version of the legislation this month. He expects the full Senate will vote on the Bill by early summer. He believes the Bill will continue federal support for crop insurance and offer some type of safety net program to supplement crop insurance revenue.


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