The Senate Ag Committee renewed the farm bill debate with a hearing on Capitol Hill earlier today. Lawmakers are trying to craft a farm bill under tight budget conditions – without compromising the safety net.
The compromise farm bill drafted by Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas reached last year during the Super Committee process would have cut spending while creating a whole new subsidy to protect farmers when their revenue drops.
Most lawmakers during today’s hearing stressed the importance that crop insurance will have as a cornerstone in the new farm bill’s safety net.
Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns says that crop insurance seems to be quite important to producers.
And North Dakota Senator John Hoeven says there is a lot to work do in the area.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was a witness in the first panel for today’s hearing. He echoed the importance as well.
President Barack Obama’s called for the elimination of direct payments in his budget proposal Monday, which put forth a $32 billion cut in farm programs.
And many Farm-state lawmakers have already said they will support eliminating some subsidies and programs in the bill. But, Vilsack says important areas of the farm bill need to be safeguarded – like programs that assist beginning farmers. And he also addressed the issue of estate taxes.
Minnesota Representative Collin Peterson, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, warns that Congress shouldn’t get too confident about cutting farm programs. He says “There are a lot of land mines and we just have to see how it plays out.” If the agriculture economy crashes, he says, “There isn’t going to be any money to bail anybody out.”