Finally, there’s movement in Washington on the farm Bill, and plenty of it. For the first time in history, both houses of Congress are working on the new farm bill at the same time. SFN’s Rhonda Garrison is at the NAFB’s Washington Watch where she caught up with Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director of congressional relations with the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“I think we have got a little window of opportunity because the Senate would really like to turn to immigration legislation right when they come back from Memorial Day. We only have about 7-8 legislation days after we finish the mark up when they can bring this up. Its Majority Leader Reed’s idea for that window of opportunity to get it done.
I do foresee a lot of challenges. We knew they would be coming. Its harder now to write a bill with an adequate safety net for farmers than it was last year. We knew that would be the case. As you have less and less money to spend the options for how you come up with that safety net get fewer and fewer. So the bills look a little more alike this year than they did last year. I still think food stamps will be an outstanding issue that will be very difficult. It seems crazy to think that we can’t come up with an agreement between $4 and $20 billion dollars, the Senate a $4 billion dollar cut, the House $20 billion, out of a $770 billion pot of money. But people are just engrained on wanting either way more than $20 billion or wanting zero. It sounds simple to come up with but it wont happen. That will be a sticking point when it comes to the floors.
Cotton is probably the commodity that will see the biggest changes. That is forced by the Brazil cotton case. There were several things they said they were not compliant about, so cotton has come up with a crop insurance type program which could be used either on top of your current program or separately. I think it’s the wave of the future. We proposed a bill here at Farm Bureau where if we could give everyone sacks we would, but you cant afford it. I think you are seeing in both bills a trend away from typical commodity payments and a move toward more of the risk management being handled by the crop insurance program.
We hope that farmers stay engaged as this will be a long process.”