The US Farm Bill Passed Senate, Where to Next?

26 June 2012

blog, farm bill

By Lauren Anderson, CFJC Food Policy Research Intern

I came into CFJC as an intern just as the Farm Bill passed through the Senate, with a vote of 64-35. This unwieldy process has been marked by some small triumphs: the 

DurbinCoburn amendment reduces crop insurance subsidies to the most profitable farm businesses; the Chambliss amendment ensures that farmers receiving insurance subsidies carry out conservation practices; the

Grassley amendment puts a payment cap on “marketing loan gains” at $75,000 per farmer; and the Merkley-Brown amendment increases support for local and organic foods. The Brown Amendment supporting novice and rural farmers also passed, along with the Akaka amendments concerning the better management of tribal lands. We were disappointed by the failure of funding support for the 2501 Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program, and Gillibrand’s amendment requesting to reduce the profit margins of crop insurance companies to mitigate SNAP program cuts (previously known as food stamps).

There is still time for you to take action in this process; we will continue to be engaged in the debate and representing the interests of food justice in California.

However as the Farm Bill moves to the House in the next couple of weeks for another round of debate, we face another threat: is there to be a farm bill at all? If another avalanche of amendments pours in (which Politico suggests was a conservative strategy to kill the bill) deliberation could be just as painful as in the Senate.

Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director of The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, released a statement Wednesday emphasizing the urgency of this process:

“Our message to the House leaders is very simple,” said Hoefner.  “Now is not the time to hit the pause button, now is the time to roll up your sleeves and get the bill done on time and in proper order.  The current farm bill expires on September 30, giving the House exactly 17 legislative days to take up and pass the bill before expiration, assuming Committee passage the week of July 9.  The hour is late.  It is not yet time to hit the panic button, but the hand must come off the pause button or there will be no bill this year.”

So what happens if the bill dies in the House? Most likely the previous 2008 farm bill will be extended for a year, continuing baseline program funding. With the election in September, what results from reconsideration of the process in 2013 could be anyone’s guess.


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CFJC promotes the basic human right to healthy food while advancing social, agricultural, environmental and economic justice. Through advocacy, organizing and education, we collaborate with community-based efforts to create a sustainable food supply. We envision a food system in which all activities, from farm to table, are equitable, healthful, regenerative and community-driven.

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