WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2015 - Senate Republican leaders have endorsed a House agreement to restore a $3 billion cut contained in a two-year budget deal. 

“I also have concerns about what the changes to the crop insurance program will mean for the farmers of Kentucky, several of whom I’ve heard from over the past two days,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., on the Senate floor. 

“It is our joint understanding that House leaders will work to revere these crop insurance changes and find bipartisan alternative deficit reduction savings when they consider an omnibus appropriations bill later this year,” McConnell said.  

Under the bill, which the House approved Wednesday and the Senate approved early Friday, 64-35, USDA is supposed to carry out the cut before the end of 2016 by lowering the cap on the insurance companies’ rate of return. Asked Wednesday how he would replace the $3 billion, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said, "We're not there yet."

Under the House agreement, the $3 billion in savings that the cut was supposed to produce will be found in some other, non-agricultural area of the federal budget.

The cut “would greatly damage the crop insurance program as we know it,” said Roberts, one of 18 Republicans who voted for the bill Friday.

“I have worked my entire career to build crop insurance as a public-private partnership that best protects producers and taxpayers. This agreement reached today continues in that effort to fulfill that mission.”

Later Thursday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack seemed to suggest that a cut to crop insurance of some size could still occur. 

“We will obviously continue to work with the budget process to ensure that whatever reductions are required are thoughtful… I think that there are ways in which the crop insurance program itself can be reformed and improved, while also saving money,” Vilsack told reporters. 

Even if the budget bill’s cut is reversed, USDA could seek to renegotiate its risk-sharing, Standard Reinsurance Agreement with the companies. But a provision in the 2014 farm bill would bar the department from using the new SRA to save money as the administration did in 2010. Under this week's agreement, that budget-neutral requirement remains intact, according to the House Agriculture Committee.

“House leadership made a promise to reverse these cuts and have committed that the cuts will not come from agriculture, so they will need to look elsewhere,” said a committee spokeswoman.

A GOP member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, David Young of Iowa, introduced legislation Thursday to ensure that the crop insurance provision in the budget measure is killed. 

The five senators running for president were divided over the bill in the vote early Friday. Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida all voted against it, while Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., supported it. 

(Updated 8 a.m. Oct. 30)