Picture of Margaret Reeves

Margaret Reeves

Senate passes good Farm Bill!

After three rapid-fire days with votes on 73 amendments and big budget cuts, the Senate passed what is probably the best Farm Bill we could have hoped for. Huge thanks for all the calls, letters and meetings with elected officials delivered by a large and diverse number of individuals and groups across the country, including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).

PAN stands with the other ten members of NSAC’s California Farm Bill Caucus to celebrate this success and gear-up for the House Farm Bill negotiations, coming up just after the 4th of July.   

We're pleased to report that the Chambliss amendment linking crop insurance payments to soil and water conservation is included in the bill, while a proposed amendment weakening the Clean Water Act didn't even make it to the floor for consideration.

For a great summary and analysis of this week’s negotiations and votes, see NSAC's blog re-posted below:

Path to the 2012 Farm Bill: Senate passes its Farm Bill, House delays

June 21st, 2012 — Today, the Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act by a vote of 64-35. NSAC supported passage of the bill as amended after three days of Senate debate and voting on amendments.

Ahead of final passage, Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) said, “There are 16 million people whose jobs depend on the strength of the agriculture economy in our food system.” She spoke about the “significant reforms” in the bill, how the process had been a “very important bipartisan effort,” and the “opportunity” through this vote to vote on deficit reduction.

Ranking Member Roberts (R-KS) echoed Chairwoman Stabenow’s statements, and emphasized how the process had managed to “break the logjam of partisanship” that has recently plagued Congress.

Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) both praised Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Roberts for their bipartisan work on the bill, and both spoke in appreciation for the cooperative and relatively smooth process of the bill through the Senate.

Before voting on final passage of the bill, which had to meet a sixty-vote super majority threshold, Senators debated and voted on a series of non-germane amendments. All of the amendments voted on today had to meet the sixty-vote threshold. The vote on the amendment offered by Senator Sanders (I-VT) to allow states to label genetically engineered foods failed 26-73. An Amendment that would have prohibited aerial inspections of CAFOs by the Environmental Protection Agency also failed to meet the sixty vote threshold.

NSAC supported passage of the final bill because of several amendments passed on day 1 and day 2 of the debate. Most notably, amendments by Senator Brown (D-OH) on rural development and beginning farmers, Senator Chambliss (R-GA) on soil and water conservation, and Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Coburn (R-OK) on crop insurance subsidy limits made significant improvements to the bill. Amendments by Senator Merkley (D-OR) on crop insurance for organic farmers, by Senator Grassley (R-IA) on commodity payment limit reform, and Senator Wyden (D-OR) on farm to school pilot programs also greatly improved the bill.

NSAC thanks all of the farmers and grassroots activists who took action in support of reform and a sustainable farming future — these reforms would not have happened without your calls, emails, and meetings!

And in the House…

While the Senate finished its work on the Farm Bill for the time being, the House delayed committee markup by a few weeks. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Lucas (R-OK) had been planning to hold markup next week but announced that markup has been pushed back to July 11. The decision came after discussions with Majority Leader Cantor (R-VA), who says he wants to “push the pause button” on the bill and assess the political situation.

Part of the reason for the delay in the House may also be that next week, the full House is debating the FY 13 Agriculture Appropriations bill. Chairman Lucas has said that he anticipates the agriculture appropriations floor debate to be preview of the House floor debate on the Farm Bill. Most lawmakers anticipate the Farm Bill floor debate to be the largest unknown in the process, with attempts to reform the bill coming from both the left and right flanks. Because of the anticipated attacks on agriculture spending, Chairman Lucas wants “all hands on deck” and his committee members focused on the appropriations floor debate.

We will keep readers appraised of what is in the Lucas bill when it is released and of course cover the House Committee markup process very closely. Assuming passage of a bill out of Committee by July 13, attention will be squarely focused on the House Republican leadership. To date, they have shown very little interest in taking up the Farm Bill this year, even though the current Farm Bill expires on September 30. With so little time left, and with the House of session the month of August and big chunks of September, floor time for the Farm Bill will be difficult to come by. Whether there is a 2012 Farm Bill or not will largely rest in the hands of the top House Republican leadership.

Picture of Margaret Reeves

Margaret Reeves

Margaret Reeves is a PAN Senior Scientist with expertise in agroecology and soil ecology. As a long-time farmworker advocate, Margaret serves on the Board of the Equitable Food Initiative and works with partners around the country to ensure worker-protective federal and state policy. Follow @MargaretatPAN

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