WASHINGTON, May 14, 2013 – North Dakota freshman Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is ready to move quickly on writing a new farm bill today when the Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry starts marking up a new farm bill at 10:00 a.m. this morning. And she’s prepared to support several compromises – brokered by Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., on the commodity title and cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) spending.

But there’s one area where she plans to fight: linking crop insurance to conservation compliance.

“The big concern in the current farm bill as drafted is conservation compliance for crop insurance,” Heitkamp told Agri-Pulse in an interview Monday. “That linkage has caused a great deal of concern because we have had a less than positive experience with conservation compliance in North Dakota.”

Heitkamp says her GOP counterpart, Sen. John Hoeven, will be moving forward with an amendment that will delink conservation compliance with crop insurance, even though she was uncertain over whether or not they will have votes to succeed.

Several national farm organizations recently brokered a deal with conservation and environmental groups that would link crop insurance participation to conservation compliance. In exchange, they all jointly agreed to fight another potential farm bill amendment that would have limited the amount of crop insurance premium subsidies, depending on a grower’s adjusted gross income. That compromise is expected to be included in the Chairman’s mark today.

Removing the link to conservation compliance will be “difficult,” Heitkamp admits - especially given that so many national groups signed on to the compromise.

“It’s not true of local groups, who took a different position than their national organizations.”

Over the weekend, Senate Ag committee staff worked feverishly to review over 100 farm bill amendments that were offered on a wide variety of topics. Heitkamp offered four, including one to help pollinators and the many beekeeping operations in her state.

Some amendments will be dropped entirely, while others are expected to be offered in committee this morning.

For example, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand plans to offer an amendment which restores the $4 billion in SNAP cuts by shaving off crop insurance company profits from a federally guaranteed rate of return of 14% to 12%.

In addition, Senator Pat Roberts, along with Sens. Grassley, Johanns and Thune may offer amendments to alter the Adverse Market Payment (AMP) program. However, the Chairman's mark already includes one of Grassley's amendments, which would make crops - other than rice and peanuts -under the AMP program use a five-year olympic rolling average to determine target prices. 


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