May 3, 2012


Senate Agriculture Committee Marks Up 2012 Farm Bill 

by Mary Fund 

Debate on the 2012 Farm Bill has begun in earnest as this is written. On April 20, the Senate Agriculture Committee released its draft of the 2012 Farm Bill. The Committee began mark-up on April 26. The House Agriculture Committee has also scheduled a list of eight Farm Bill hearings, although speculation is that it will be the Senate version that is ultimately voted on.

The summary of the draft that Chairwoman Sen. Stabenow (D-MI) released, states that the bill achieves $23 billion in savings, which matches the Committee's proposal for the Super Committee last fall. Chair-woman Stabenow appears to be trying to stick to her goal of getting a bill out of committee and to the Senate Floor by Memorial Day.

Stabenow's summary stated that the draft "eliminates direct payments while strengthening risk management, consolidates and streamlines programs (about 23 existing conservation pro-grams are consolidated into 13 pro-grams), improves program integrity and accountability (although in the summary this appears to apply primarily to the nutrition programs and not commodity programs), and grows America's agricultural economy (the summary appears to focus on bio-based manufacturing).

While the Senate is moving forward, the House situation is more complex. On Wednesday, April 18, the House Agriculture Committee passed a budget reconciliation bill on a partisan vote that proposes to cut $33.2 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over ten years- a move that ensures strong debate from food and hunger circles and urban representatives.

The House Budget Committee had directed the House Agriculture Committee to cut $33.2 billion over ten years as part of the Fiscal 2013 budget resolution. The House budget resolution assumed cuts in commodity subsidies and others, but the Agriculture Committee chose to take the entire $33.2 billion from SNAP, the nutrition assistance program that serves millions of Americans who have fallen on hard times.

The budget resolution is regarded as a formality that must be dealt with before the Agriculture Committee can move on to serious discussion of the farm bill; it is NOT expected to become law as the Senate has made it clear they will not take up budget reconciliation bills from the House.

However, such a highly charged political action by the House Agriculture Committee, leads to speculation as to how serious they are about getting a Farm Bill passed.

The status of the Farm Bill developments will change from day to day during the next two weeks. For up to date information go to the national Sustainable Agriculture website at

No comments:

Post a Comment