UPDATED: Senate considers farm bill

05/21/2013 01:16:00 PM
Tom Karst

Moffitt said he expect any organic promotion order effort would be broad-based and include many commodities such as dairy, fresh produce, bread, meat and other items. “I think they have a large uphill road,” he said.What products are included, how assessments are collected and how the promotion order’s board is selected will be thorny issues to resolve, Moffitt said.“It would be organics under a bigger umbrella than even fresh produce,” he said.

Farm bill progress

In the Senate, negotiations on how many amendments would be considered with the legislation make it unclear when the farm bill vote of the full Senate will occur, said Tom O’Brien, Washington, D.C.-based representative for the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association.

Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for United  Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., said Senate leaders may try to finish work on the farm bill by June 5, since they are anxious to bring the immigration reform legislation to the Senate floor as early as June 6. 

In the House of Representatives, the hope among agriculture advocates is that the bill will be brought before the full House soon to allow plenty of time for the House and Senate to harmonize the two versions of the bill in conference committee before the current farm bill expires Sept. 30.

“They’ve got some time, but they can’t take too long,” O’Brien said.

Kam Quarles, director of legislative affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based McDermott Will & Emery law firm, said most expect the farm bill debate in the House to begin in mid-June.

In general, both the House and the Senate versions of the farm bill are similar to each other and fairly well aligned with the priorities of the specialty crop industry, O’Brien said.

“It’s not a situation where you need to throw that Hail Mary pass because you didn’t get what you wanted,” he said. “I’m sure there will be tweaks here and there but for the most part both chambers have done well by specialty crops,” O’Brien said.

“If you take it in context of the overall budget environment we are in, then specialty crops have done very well,” Quarles said. “Both (House and Senate) agriculture committees gave us pretty strong validation of specialty crop programs.”



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