Today, the 2013 Farm Bill debate on the Senate floor heads into the 4th and hopefully final day. Debbie Stabenow (D. Michigan) continues to do an excellent job of managing the legislation forward and countering various amendments that seek to “upset the apple cart”. We believe the plan is that the S. 954 (2013 Farm Bill) as amended will reach a final vote today in order to allow for the members to take the holiday weekend off and likely jump start the controversial Immigration Reform debate upon their return next week.
Wednesday the rhetoric on the floor included the usual attempt to end the sugar program as we know it. A bi-partisan group of informed Farm Bill members was able to defeat this amendment on a 45-54 vote. When sugar wins, it indicates that the Senate Ag Committee (SAC) leadership – Stabenow plus Senator Cochran (R. Mississippi) – have the votes lined up to block many, if not all, harmful amendments.
Today will be key for the crop insurance votes on amendments that we listed yesterday. It is critical that everyone check in again with their Senators and ask for their support in opposing all of these amendments. Please check yesterday’s information for those seven amendments. Most will likely receive a vote and we need to be diligent in delivering our message and not be outworked by our opponents.
The debate on Wednesday included extensive discussion of the Durbin-Coburn amendments which adds a means test for crop insurance premium subsidy. This amendment passed in last years Senate Farm bill by a 66-33 vote. Part of the “grand bargain” reached in the basic Senate Farm Bill included an “agreement” that Conservation Compliance would be mandated in order for a grower to receive full crop insurance premium subsidy. This “agreement” that included but was not limited to conservation interests, commodity interests and crop insurance companies further stated that a means test for crop insurance premium subsidy or participation would not be included. Floor remarks by Senator Durbin (D. Illinois) were clear that he supports the Conservation Compliance tie in, but still wants to move forward with his means test.
In my opinion, this amendment is being sold by the sponsors as a modest tweak for so called “rich farmers”. Once they get the $750,000 AGI in place with a 15% premium subsidy loss, it will be a simple matter to lower the $750,000 benchmark and raise the 15% hit each time they get a chance. Neither Durbin or Coburn (R. Oklahoma) have ever been reliable advocates for a sound crop insurance program, this fact plus the administrative headaches and loss of valuable program participation are sufficient reasons to oppose the amendment and it needs to go down.
Questions or comments are welcome!