Farm bill movement likely in May

Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow says she she’ll hold a markup of a new farm bill in May—though she has not set a specific date yet.

Stabenow’s announcement echoed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s instructions to the Senate last week.  Reid said the Senate must act on the farm bill and the water resources bill by the end of May in order to clear enough floor time for consideration of comprehensive immigration reform.

However, Capitol Hill observers say there are two big hurdles for the Senate Agriculture Committee to overcome. The first is garnering support from southern senators for a rewrite of the commodity title that, in the words of Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, treats both Midwestern and southern producers “equally”. 

The other is budget savings.  Last year’s Senate bill scored at saving about 23 billion dollars. But the Congressional Budget Office has determined that that same bill – given a 2013 economy and USDA spending – would only save about 13 billion dollars.

On the House side, Representative Frank Lucas, chair of the House Agriculture Committee, says his May 15th committee markup is on track. Lucas says the markup will build off the House Ag Committee’s 2012 bill.

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