The 2012 Farm Bill will be taken up soon after the start of the year, according to congressional agriculture leaders.
U.S. Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has said her committee likely will begin negotiations on the bill by mid-January.
Discussions on the bill will come shortly after the November failure of the congressional supercommittee, which had taken account for the 2012 Farm Bill in their discussions.
When supercommittee members abandoned their charge of cutting at least $1.5 trillion in deficit-reducing measures by mid-November, they left on the table extensive negotiations that would have significantly altered the farm bill’s appearance.
While the supercommittee was extremely tight-lipped about the content of its farm bill, reports stated it would likely have eliminated direct payments to agricultural producers while preserving crop insurance subsidies, a mainstay of Midwest farming practice.
Many farmers and ag-minded legislators were keen on pushing farm bill components through the supercommittee, hoping that doing so would avoid interference from urban lawmakers who will now have a say in the bill’s composition.
Others were less enthusiastic. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he was looking forward to “returning to the normal order” in negotiating the bill in the full legislature. Roberts expressed frustration with the secretive way that the supercommittee package had been created by his peers on the Senate and House Agriculture Committees.
Yet while Roberts may be pleased the farm bill will now be considered by the full Congress, the crop insurance that he has trumpeted as the critical component of the bill — and which would have likely been protected in the supercommittee’s version — will now be back up for grabs. Similarly, the $5 billion price tag of direct payment benefits that would have been sidestepped by the supercommittee farm bill may go back on the taxpayers’ tab should members of the House and Senate choose to extend them.
In effect, the supercommittee’s failure converted what might have been an uncharacteristically quick farm bill debate into what may become a protracted battle over the future of farm subsidies.
That fight is likely to begin sooner rather than later, although there is great speculation as to how long debate will last. While the farm bill is scheduled to be passed in 2012, discussion may continue into 2013. That means that Kansas producers may have to wait a year or longer to find out what benefits the 2012 Farm Bill will hold for them.