Committees for the U.S. Senate and House are scheduled to begin discussions this week on their versions of the farm bill, both of which would continue funding for Specialty Crop Block Grants and other fresh produce programs.
The current extension to the previous farm bill expires Sept. 30, but House leaders have said they want to get a new law on the books this summer.
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., introduced his chamber’s 576-page version of the bill , which is co-sponsored by Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn. Lucas and Peterson are chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Agriculture.
Heralded as a bi-partisan effort, the House farm bill includes cuts of almost $40 billion over the next decade. Of those cuts, about $20 billion would come from the food stamp program. It also includes almost $14 billion in cuts to farm programs and almost $7 billion in cuts to environmental programs.
The House committee is scheduled to have a business meeting at 10 a.m. Eastern time on May 15 to begin discussions of the bill.
The Senate version of the farm bill, set for a hearing at 10 a.m. Eastern time May 14, is 1,102 pages and also includes cuts, but not as deep as the ones in the House bill.
In a news release, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said a new farm bill “must be passed this year to provide farmers the certainty they need to keep driving our economic recovery.”
The Senate version includes $23 billion in cuts, with only about $4 billion coming out of the food stamp program. Stabenow pointed out that the Senate approved last year’s version of the legislation with a bipartisan majority of 64-35.
Both versions of the farm bill include continued funding for specialty crop programs and organic programs. They also both include continued funding for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for low-income schools and coupons for senior citizens to use for eligible fresh produce at farmers markets.
Both versions of the 2013 farm bill are very similar to the 2012 versions put forward in the House and Senate. They both also consolidate 23 conservation programs into 13 programs.
A key sticking point for the House version this year is expected by analysts to be the deep cuts to the food stamp program.