Senate Ag Committee Releases Farm Bill Draft

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported on Friday that, “The farm bill that will be taken up by the Senate Agriculture Committee next week will look a lot like the current farm bill with some tweaks to commodity and conservation programs, but no radical changes from current law.

“But unlike the current battles that plague the farm bill in the House of Representatives, senior Senate committee aides who briefed reporters in a phone call Friday reiterated over, over, over and over again that the Senate farm bill is bipartisan, bipartisan, bipartisan and bipartisan.

The bill tightens income caps for farmers at the highest income levels, but the Senate farm bill does not make any major changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that prompted every House Democrat to vote against the House version of the bill last month.

With respect to the commodity title, Mr. Clayton explained, “The Senate bill keeps the Agricultural Risk Coverage for both the county and individual programs, compared to the House bill, which drops the individual plan that has limited enrollment. To improve ARC, the Senate increases the transitional yield and adjusts the trend yield in the formula calculation. Like the House legislation, the Senate bill also changes yield data used for ARC from reports by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) to crop insurance data. ARC payments would be calculated on the physical location of the tract of land as well. The Senate bill would also boost the speed at which ARC data is reported to better inform farmers about potential payments.

Schnitkey, G., N. Paulson, J. Coppess, and C. Zulauf. “Revised Estimates of 2017 ARC-CO Payments.” farmdoc daily (8):98, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, May 30, 2018. (

“The Senate bill makes no changes to reference prices under the Price Loss Coverage Program.”

While discussing the conservation portion of the Senate draft, Mr. Clayton stated that, “In conservation, Senate staffers said there is no new money, but there are also no cuts. The Senate bill maintains the Conservation Stewardship Program enrollment that is eliminated in the House bill. For set-aside acreage in the Conservation Reserve Program, the Senate bumps up the acreage from 24 million acres to 25 million, compared to plans to go to 29 million acres in the House bill. The Senate plan would cut CRP rental rates to 88.5% of the average NASS rental rate in the county. That compares to the House bill that would lower the average CRP rate to 80% of the county rental-rate average.”

“The legislation adds complications to negotiations underway in the House, where a version of the bill failed last month because of an unrelated fight over immigration. Lawmakers in that chamber are seeking to revive the bill with the work requirements included.

Democrats almost universally reject new food stamp work requirements. Unlike in the House, where Republicans can pass legislation without the help of Democrats, a more bipartisan approach is needed in the Senate because the GOP has a narrow majority and often needs Democrats’ votes to pass legislation.

The Associated Press noted Friday that, “The House is planning to take up its version of the bill again sometime this month.”

And Reuters news reported last week that, “The Republican leader of the U.S. Senate said on Tuesday the chamber would likely take up a massive farm bill around the July 4 holiday.”

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