The Senate has been working on its version of the 2012 Farm Bill - or the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act - with significant floor action last week. That included more than 300 amendments filed, many not actually germane to the measure. The result, a kind of legislative standstill that apparently required some behind-the-scenes discussions, that resulted Monday in a vote for unanimous consent on 73 of the amendments.
That means that when debate resumes Tuesday afternoon, the Senate will deal with a more focused pile of amendments. But beware there are some surprises in there including cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (and an amendment to return proposed cuts to the program). The Senate will also consider payment limits, and changes to crop insurance that could alter premiums and other support.
In essence, the Senate isn't out of the woods yet, but there are a lot fewer trees to look at on the way through. The Senate will be looking at a range of issues including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., amendment for biotech food labeling; an amendment from Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., to prohibit aerial surveillance of ag operations by regulators (Sen. Barbara Boxer also has an amendment on the issue that has not been published in the Congressional Record); and the Senate will vote on the amendment from Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., that could change the nature of checkoff programs.
Debate and roll call votes on the 73 amendments will begin later Tuesday with the possibility that the Senate version of the farm bill could be completed by the end of the week.
As for the House version, no final bill has been brought up for markup and consideration yet, though there was talk by some observers that it could happen as early as this week. The legislative calendar is starting to run out on the farm bill, and farm groups are concerned that a measure may not pass ahead of fall elections. This limits a farmer's ability to plan for the future.
Politico offers a look at some other amendments left in the 73 to consider. Check it out.