Government payments to farmers are forecast to hit their highest level in more than a decade because of the trade assistance being provided to producers this year, and the total could go even higher if Congress, as expected, authorizes a new round of disaster aid.
The new farm bill largely preserves the commodity and conservation programs but it includes some significant improvements for dairy producers and also would raise price floors for sugar and other commodities.
A bipartisan farm bill that would protect crop insurance and commodity programs as well as nutrition assistance from cuts passed the Senate by an overwhelming margin, 86-11, clearing the way for negotiations to begin next month with the House.
Leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee this week will seek to get a strong bipartisan vote for their farm bill draft from the panel, giving the measure momentum as it heads to the Senate floor in the following days.
The Republican chairman and the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee hope to release a draft of their farm bill this week, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promises to move it quickly to the floor.
Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts forcefully rejected proposed farm bill reforms that would make the Agriculture Risk Coverage program more attractive and increase payments to farmers in the upper Midwest at the expense of producers in other regions.
Leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee are working to finalize key details of their draft farm bill, including changes to the Agriculture Risk Coverage program, with hopes of bringing the legislation out of committee sometime in June.
With a farm bill floor debate looming next week, House members have filed more than half a dozen amendments attacking various aspects of the crop insurance program and others seeking to tighten rules for commodity subsidies and to roll back the sugar program.