Thu June 14, 2012
Farm Bill slowed by controversial amendments
The new Farm Bill is slowly making its way through Congress. The legislation has been moved to the full Senate for debate, but it is weighed down by controversial amendments.
At last check, there were over 200 amendments submitted, some having nothing to do with agriculture. The question is whether the politically divided Senate will be able to agree on how to deal with them all: The clock is ticking, as the current farm bill expires in September. The new bill contains programs that are crucial to Wisconsin residents and farmers, from food stamps to crop insurance. If the Farm Bill isn't passed in time, the Senate may be forced to come up with an alternative, such as a short-term extension of the last bill. Dennis Riley, a Political Science Professor at UW-Stevens Point, says that would bad for the economy. “People simply can't plan,” he says. “If they can't plan, they can't hire. So these things get all merged in together, and yes, every time we can't do 'here's what's coming for five years in your field,' then the uncertainty is quite substantial.”
The way farmers are compensated for crop losses and low prices is proving to be especially controversial. Riley says senators from the Midwest and South disagree over how to best protect farmers. “Midwestern farmers are actually doing pretty well,” he says. “Our crop prices are up. Our yields are up. Things are looking pretty good. And in other parts of the country things don't look so good for agriculture.”
Senators from the corn and soybean-rich Midwest are backing a subsidized crop insurance plan. Southern senators want peanut and rice farmers to have access to direct payments which help insulate them from low prices.