Congress is hard at work on a new farm bill. The House held its last field hearing last week in Kansas while the Senate announced it would begin marking up its version of the measure this week. Farm groups like what they see in the new farm bill, but not everyone is happy.
On the positive side, the American Soybean Association issued a statement from Steve Wellman, president and a Syracuse, Neb. farmer:
"ASA applauds the leadership and hard work on the Farm Bill displayed by Chairwoman Stabenow, Ranking Member Roberts and the entire Senate Agriculture Committee. We encourage the Committee to complete mark-up as quickly as possible in order to facilitate completion of a balanced and effective Farm Bill as quickly as possible this year. ASA leadership is reviewing the details and implications of the 900-page chair's mark, and we will be prepared to comment further early next week. At this point, we are very pleased to see that the proposal includes a revenue-based risk management program that will complement the federal crop insurance program. We also applaud leadership’s decision not to cut crop insurance funding to achieve the Committee's deficit reduction objectives. These are among ASA's top priorities and we commend Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Roberts for supporting them in a bipartisan bill. Finally, we look forward to working with the full Committee during next week's mark-up to ensure that the final product is one that serves American soybean farmers."
National Corn Grower Association President Garry Niemeyer issued the following statement: "At a time when the United States is borrowing 42 cents on every dollar spent, we are pleased to see the Senate Agriculture Committee be responsive to our federal deficit crisis. We are delighted that the Senate Agriculture Committee is moving forward with the 2012 Farm Bill at a steady pace and look forward to continuing the process.
The two groups had joined six others earlier in the week that outlined their priorities for a new farm bill.
But not everyone is singing the praises of the Senate farm bill draft. Feeding America, a group focused on solving access to nutrition issues in the United States, is not happy with proposed cuts to nutrition spending in the bill.
In a press statement issued by the organization, Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of the organization says: "While we recognize the challenge of drafting a Farm Bill in a climate of deficit reduction, Feeding America is deeply disappointed that the Senate Agriculture Committee proposes to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program when the need for food assistance remains at unprecedented levels. We strongly oppose proposed cuts to nutrition programs and instead urge Congress to draft a Farm Bill that protects and strengthens [programs like SNAP].
Escarra notes that with unemployment stuck above 8% nationally, millions of families are "scraping by with reduced wages or hours, and the charitable system to the breaking point, cuts to SNAP would add further hardship for the struggling families and communities across the country."
The Senate Ag Committee will begin marking up its version of the farm bill Wednesday, April 25.
Both the House and Senate are running the farm bill deliberations right up to the deadline of their respective sessions. In effect, it's going to be a race to the finish of the session.