Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 the House and Senate conferees will convene their first public meeting on the 2013 Farm Bill. Conferees will have time for statements and farm bill discussion will follow as reconciling the very different House and Senate bills begins. Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly hopes the conferees cut right to the chase.
“Everybody knows where the points of discussion will be,” he said, “so I hope they very quickly start to work on those kinds of areas. If anybody goes into this with the idea that they’re going to get 100% of what they want, then it’s not going to work. But if everybody goes into this with the idea that ‘here’s my strongly held views, I’m willing to listen to other people as well,’ then I think we can move our nation forward and provide stability and certainty for our farmers. Then we should be able to put this together.”
The major divide between House and Senate is $35 billion over ten years. That’s the amount of SNAP or food stamp cuts the House bill calls for above the Senate version. That’s just one of the areas where only compromise from both sides will bring about a bill that can be passed.
Donnelly is not a conferee but as a member of the Senate Ag Committee he is communicating a number of priorities including crop insurance.
“We all have things that we want to get in there, but we’re going to have to work together and we’re going to have to make sure our farmers get a 5 year farm bill that provides certainty. I’ve been a very strong advocate of crop insurance all along. I think that it helps to provide some support for our ag community, where in a business that is inherently risk-based it enables them to have some sense of support and stability as they move forward. So that’s been critical. The conservation piece, we already lead the nation in the number of acres that are dedicated to proper conservation techniques in our farming. So I think that it’s not only a hallmark of Indiana farming but something that I’d like to see continue.”
He added the issues facing the conferees are not intractable. With common sense he believes they can craft and pass a bill by the end of the year.