Lack of agreement among Senate Republican and Democratic leaders on how to slim down the list of nearly 300 amendments vying for attention in the 2012 farm bill could kill the bill.
“What’s happening right now is the leadership of the Senate Agriculture Committee are trying to some path toward getting amendments considered,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association,
Inclusion of amendments unrelated to the farm bill has hung up the bill, he said June 14. Senators see the farm bill as one of the few opportunities to move legislation before the election.
“We are at a snail’s pace and (leadership) is continuing to negotiate what kind of amendment will be considered,” Guenther said.
Guenther said if an agreement is not reached soon, the bill could risk being set aside.
“They will just pull the bill and move forward,” he said.
One source close to the agriculture committee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said leadership was making progress on an agreement on the amendments but a deal had not yet been reached.
Guenther said the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance is looking at various amendments that could affect fruits and vegetables.
“We probably have 25 to 30 of those 300 we are looking at,” Guenther said. Some of those number are related to federal subsidies for crop insurance.
Perhaps the most significant amendment is from Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., that would change the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for schools to allow processed produce, including frozen, canned and dried.
Another amendment the alliance opposes seeks to reduce funding for the Market Access Program.
Guenther said if the Senate does not pass the bill, it will likely take some of the steam out of House Agriculture Committee’s work on its version.
The fallback plan will be for lawmakers to extends the 2008 farm bill — which expires at the end of September — for some period of time.
“Extension (of the farm bill) is not as easy as people think it is going to be in this Congress,” Guenther said.