Farm Bill stalled without agreement on amendment number

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 13, 2012- The Senate voted to scrap two Farm Bill amendments today, including one to phase out the sugar program, and another to replace the federal food stamp program with a block grant program for states. The “Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012” still has more than 240 amendments as of Wednesday afternoon. Senators do not yet have an agreement on a larger number of amendments to be brought up for debate, which will help move the process further.   

“There has got to be a limitation on the number of amendments we can vote on,” said Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) during a media conference call today. “When you start getting 240 and counting it gets a little bit crazy. I hope when it's all said and done, we can realize that we need to move this bill along.”

“A lot of these amendments are going to fall by the wayside, but we'll get as many votes as we can,” he added. 

Thune submitted three of his own amendments. They include one to prevent the Department of Labor from regulating children working in agriculture, another to repeal the “Death Tax” and one to instruct an evaluation of the impacts a potential reduction in caps to the crop insurance program would be. 

“I think there are going to be a number of runs at the crop insurance program,” he said. “Because we had so much success in shaping the bill that came out of agriculture committee, if we can keep the basic contours of that bill in place, I'd be happy. Obviously, we're all going to have to make some concessions on what we want voted on.”

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said today that three prevalent obstacles stand before the Farm Bill passing the Senate and they include southern discontent with the bill's risk management system, Republican political interests preventing passage before the Presidential election and unrelated amendments that “can bog things down and cause things to implode.”

During Wednesday's procedures on the Senate floor, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) objected to Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) technique bringing amendments one-by-one to the floor for a vote on the motion to table, calling it “a game of low-priority amendments and high-priority amendments in the name of saying we're doing something rather than having an open amendment process.”

Coburn suggested setting up 40 amendments over the next four days.

“I would be happy if we can get an agreed upon group of amendments,” Reid said. “I want to finish the farm bill. I think it's extremely important to our country.”

“While they're working on coming up with a finite list of amendments, why sit around here and twiddle our thumbs? At least through the process that we've gotten, get two major amendments out of the way,” he added. 

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) defended Reid's procedure saying that “before we get a larger universal agreement,” it provides an opportunity continue the process.

“Rather than just biding time on the floor while we're doing that, this gives an opportunity for members to debate on issues they care deeply about and to continue to move forward,” she said.

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