Senators introduced more than 30 amendments to S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013. Many more amendments will be filed during this week's debate, though when votes might occur on any of them has yet to be announced. Expectations are that some votes might occur this week, but others would take place in June, after the Memorial Day recess, including a vote on final passage.
Amendments filed by 15 senators included proposals affecting rural development, specialty crop, food stamp and crop insurance programs. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-NY) food stamp amendment uses a portion of bill funds that would reimburse crop insurance providers to help pay for restoring to the bill full funding for food stamps. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) propose amending the bill to impose a crop insurance adjusted gross income (AGI) eligibility means test of $750,000, but postpone application of the AGI limitation until a study of its impact is completed.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a Statement of Administration Policy  (SAP), saying it supports Senate passage of S. 954 because the bill "makes meaningful progress toward supporting the administration's goals." The goals include "eliminating the direct payment system, tightening payment and eligibility requirements" and tying crop insurance payments "to the Nation's soil conservation and wetland protection goals." The SAP also said the bill should achieve crop insurance and commodity program savings that are not contained in the legislation currently, while at the same time "strengthening the farm safety net in times of need and supporting the next generation of farmers."
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued on May 17 its revised cost estimate for S. 954, based on provisions contained in the amended version approved on May 14 by the Senate Agriculture Committee. Enacting the bill as approved by the committee "would reduce direct spending by $23 billion over the 2014-2023 period," the agency said. CBO analyzes legislative costs for Congress using five and 10-year projections, with the 10-year estimate being the one used to determine compliance with the federal budget statute and House and Senate procedures.
USA Rice Federation continues its ongoing work to provide Senate offices with information about rice industry priorities, urge support for fair and workable commodity and crop insurance programs, and oppose any amendments to weaken the commodity, crop insurance, conservation, trade, and food aid provisions in the committee-passed bill.
More from Western Farm Press