Senate ready to pass the farm bill and all of its non-”improvements” this week

posted at 3:21 pm on February 3, 2014 by Erika Johnsen

The Senate is voting on the massive, pork-filled, $1-trillion crapburger we glibly refer to as the “farm bill” this week, and they’re likely going to green-light the powerful legislative monstrosity as the dictates of agricultural and food-stamp policy for at least the next five years. The House has already approved the thing, which means the next stop after the Senate’s vote will be President Obama’s desk — an occasion on which, no doubt, he and many members of the media will surely tout the oh-so-wonderful ‘achievements’ of which Congress is capable if only they would come together in such a comfortingly bipartisan manner more often.

In recognition of this extra-special brand of “bipartisanship,” let’s go ahead and take a sampling of some of the legislation’s more delightful highlights. For instance, the proposed requirement that members of Congress disclose how much they personally are benefiting from the subsidies contained in the farm bill? …Well, actually, that got eliminated:

A provision requiring members of Congress and the administration to disclose what crop insurance subsidies they receive was quietly dropped from the farm bill that the House passed on Wednesday.

Section 11001 of the House-passed farm bill had a provision that “requires disclosure (by name) of the amount of crop insurance assistance received by Members of Congress, Cabinet Secretaries, and members of their immediate families.”

That provision was taken out in closed-door conference negotiations before the bill was released on Monday. The bill cleared the House in less than 72 hours, before many lawmakers had a chance to review it, and now heads to the Senate.

But that bizarrely duplicated catfish inspection program that basically serves as protectionism for domestic producers? Still there.

Also not included in the conference report is a provision that would have reversed the move of catfish inspections out of the Food and Drug Administration and into the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Cochran had made it his personal mission to eliminate that provision, which was contained in the House bill but not the Senate bill, on behalf of the many domestic catfish producers in his state.

After more than $30 million in startup expenses, the USDA has yet to inspect a single catfish — and has actually disbanded the four-member catfish inspection program it created, proponents of the change had argued.

Certain environmentalist groups, however, are none too pleased about the whole thing.

The Environmental Working Group said Friday that it is opposed to the $956 billion farm bill heading for a vote in the Senate on Monday.

The group said that while the bill makes some positive changes that will foster better environmental stewardship, it could significantly increase farm subsidies and encourage the kind of overproduction that has devastated natural areas in the past. …

“But those important provisions are outweighed by new, expanded and largely unlimited subsidies that do too much to help the largest and most successful farm operations at the expense of family farmers and the environment,” he added.

The group said that will traditional farm subsidies like direct payments are eliminated in the farm bill, new price and revenue-based supports will “almost certainly” cost more than expected. This could more than erase the $14.3 billion in cuts in the bill to subsidies.

While Big Agriculture is basically OK with it, because they’ll get new types of crop-insurance programs to more or less replace the elimination of direct payouts that lawmakers are hailing as a major source of savings. Big Corn and other biofuels producers, specifically, are pretty jazzed about the inclusion of biofuels supports that were removed from the original House version of the bill (because the Renewable Fuel Standard evidently just isn’t enough):

In Washington, the US Senate and House of Representatives, in a joint conference report, reached a compromise that cleared way for passage of a 5-year Farm Bill including $881 million in mandatory funding for Energy Title programs including eligibility to renewable chemicals under the Section 9003 Biorefinery Assistance Program and Section 9007 Biomass Research and Development Program, and support for new purpose grown energy crops. …

The Biomass Crop Assistance Program partners with hundreds of farmers across the country to develop sustainable new biofuels and other products from non-food crops, providing farmers with additional farm income and producing next-generation energy sources. The program currently supports more than 1,100 American growers in 188 counties across 12 states, who are converting 53,000 underutilized acres to energy crops. …

Among the Farm Bill policy changes was the expansion of the Biorefinery Assistance Program. With these amendments, companies seeking to produce high-performance renewable chemicals and biobased products in the US are eligible for loan guarantees to build manufacturing plants.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of fuel, here another extension of what is effectively another fuel tax:

Congress’ mammoth farm bill restores the imposition of an extra fee on home heating oil, hitting consumers in cold-weather states just as utility costs are spiking.

The fee — two-tenths of a cent on every gallon sold — was tacked on to the end of the 959-page bill, which is winding its way through Capitol Hill. The fee would last for nearly 20 years and would siphon the money to develop equipment that is cheaper, more efficient and safer, and to encourage consumers to update their equipment.

It’s just one of dozens of provisions tucked into the farm bill… Taxpayer groups say the bill could increase spending over the previous version and that it’s crammed with favors for individual lawmakers, such as rules legalizing industrial hemp. …

“The National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) has long benefitted low- and middle-class families and small businesses throughout the Northeast and other cold weather states,” Rep. Leonard Lance, New Jersey Republican, said in a statement. “The program improves energy efficiency and lowers heating bills at no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.”

The bill prohibits oil companies from passing the fee on to consumers, but taxpayer advocates said that’s a sham and that the money has to come from consumers.

Not to mention, the dozens of weird little policy provisions you’d never begin to think of thrown in to help grab lawmakers’ support from various regions. Here are some of the ideas for which New York Democrat Chuck Schumer lobbied, like preserving the “wool trust fund.” Yes, that is a thing that exists.

“This gives U.S. wool and fabric manufacturers like Hickey Freeman in Rochester a partial tax refund of duties paid on imports to wool,” said Schumer, who lobbied Senate negotiators to keep the provision in the final agreement.

Imported woolen suits have low tariffs, but imported wool used to make suits in the U.S. have high tariffs.

“So it gave an advantage to foreign clothing makers, particularly in the fine woolen end,” Schumer said.

The Maple Tap Act, another Schumer initiative. It would create a $20 million annual grant program for research and expansion of the maple syrup industry nationally. Schumer predicted some of the research will be conducted by Cornell University.

“This program is going to unleash the untapped potential of New York maple because, after all, the sugar maple is our state tree,” Schumer said.

So… remind me again why the passing this trillion-dollar, gigantically opaque, special-interest-serving, 1,000-page onmnibus behemoth is ostensibly a cheering act of bipartisanship? To finish, go read Kim Strassel’s roundup of the farm bill’s multitudinous deficiencies over at the WSJ. It is pure poetry, and it hurts so good.


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So, tell me again how the GOPe Repukes are any different than the DimocRats?

It’s all nothing but a scam, fleecing the taxpayer, day in and day out, by BOTH parties.

Meople on February 3, 2014 at 3:29 PM

Well, isn’t pork one of our biggest farm products?

dentarthurdent on February 3, 2014 at 3:30 PM

SUCCESS ? = The GOP-controlled House has finally passed a bill SO BAD that even the d-cRAT-controlled Senate will also pass it. Heck of a job, boehner !

The “Farm Bill” is the equivalent of a massive, collective congressweasel BOWEL MOVEMENT – that we taxpayers will have to fund AND clean up.

TeaPartyNation on February 3, 2014 at 3:35 PM

I just may sit 2016 out, first election since I turned eighteen…

OmahaConservative on February 3, 2014 at 3:44 PM

The Maple Tap Act, another Schumer initiative. It would create a $20 million annual grant program for research and expansion of the maple syrup industry nationally. Schumer predicted some of the research will be conducted by Cornell University.

I ask without sarcasm: How can Leftists be OK with this? Surely they could imagine all of the starving and homeless children that could be fed, housed, and clothed for $20,000,000 per year. Why do Leftists and their leaders such as Schumer hate starving, homeless children?

visions on February 3, 2014 at 3:44 PM

How we have lasted as long as we have is a total mystery. I have to assume it is the printing of funny money.

Cindy Munford on February 3, 2014 at 3:51 PM

I have a tendency towards moderation and accommodation with other people. I truly would like to be able to support Boehner, but at some point the GOP will have to cut some government spending or risk making fiscal conservatives apathetic about politics.

thuja on February 3, 2014 at 3:55 PM

How we have lasted as long as we have is a total mystery. I have to assume it is the printing of funny money.

Cindy Munford on February 3, 2014 at 3:51 PM

That worked for the Romans for almost 200 years. Sadly, I don’t think we are going to have that much time.

Johnnyreb on February 3, 2014 at 4:00 PM

Johnnyreb on February 3, 2014 at 4:00 PM

We’ve already lasted more than 200 years. But I agree, we are all smoke and mirrors at this point.

Cindy Munford on February 3, 2014 at 4:05 PM

Senate invokes cloture on farm bill, 72-22; final passage expected Tuesday afternoon – @ChadPergram

davidk on February 3, 2014 at 6:47 PM

US farm bill 2013-2014
4m
Senate invokes cloture on farm bill, 72-22; final passage expected Tuesday afternoon – @ChadPergram
see original on twitter.com

Chad Pergram ‏@ChadPergram 17m

Sens voting no on cloture for farm bill (con’t): Markey McCain Paul Roberts Rubio Scott Sessions Shelby Warren
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Chad Pergram ‏@ChadPergram 17m

Sens voting no on cloture on farm bill: Ayotte Blumenthal Coburn Collins Corker Cornyn Cruz Flake Grassley Heller Inhofe Johnson (WI) Lee..
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Chad Pergram ‏@ChadPergram 29m

Senate invokes cloture on farm bill, 72-22. Needed 60. Final passage Tuesday afternoon.
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Chad Pergram ‏@ChadPergram 1h

Senate now voting to end debate on farm bill. 60 votes needed. Final vote planned for tomorrow afternoon.

canopfor on February 3, 2014 at 6:50 PM

Senate invokes cloture on farm bill, 72-22; final passage expected Tuesday afternoon – @ChadPergram

davidk on February 3, 2014 at 6:47 PM

davidk: Tuesday eh, good to see ya covering it too———-:0

canopfor on February 3, 2014 at 6:51 PM

please explain to me the difference between democrats and republicans again?

burserker on February 3, 2014 at 6:59 PM

Reuters Politics ‏@ReutersPolitics 56m

Farm bill clears Senate hurdle, final vote expected Tuesday http://reut.rs/1fHRBJ9
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Farm bill clears hurdle in Senate, final vote seen Tuesday

WASHINGTON Mon Feb 3, 2014 6:53pm EST
*************************************

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/03/us-usa-agriculture-farmbill-idUSBREA121MZ20140203?feedType=RSS&feedName=politicsNews&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&dlvrit=574655

canopfor on February 3, 2014 at 7:17 PM

Roll Call:

U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 113th Congress – 2nd Session

as compiled through Senate LIS by the Senate Bill Clerk under the direction of the Secretary of the Senate

Vote Summary

Question: On the Cloture Motion (Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 2642 )
Vote Number: 20 Vote Date: February 3, 2014, 05:31 PM
Required For Majority: 3/5 Vote Result: Cloture Motion Agreed to
Measure Number: H.R. 2642 (Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 )
Measure Title: A bill to provide for the reform and continuation of agricultural and other programs of the Department of Agriculture through fiscal year 2018, and for other purposes.
Vote Counts: YEAs 72
NAYs 22
Not Voting 6
Vote Summary By Senator Name By Vote Position By Home State

Alphabetical by Senator Name
Alexander (R-TN), Yea
Ayotte (R-NH), Nay
Baldwin (D-WI), Yea
Barrasso (R-WY), Yea
Baucus (D-MT), Yea
Begich (D-AK), Not Voting
Bennet (D-CO), Yea
Blumenthal (D-CT), Nay
Blunt (R-MO), Yea
Booker (D-NJ), Yea
Boozman (R-AR), Yea
Boxer (D-CA), Yea
Brown (D-OH), Yea
Burr (R-NC), Yea
Cantwell (D-WA), Yea
Cardin (D-MD), Yea
Carper (D-DE), Yea
Casey (D-PA), Yea
Chambliss (R-GA), Yea
Coats (R-IN), Yea
Coburn (R-OK), Nay
Cochran (R-MS), Yea
Collins (R-ME), Nay
Coons (D-DE), Yea
Corker (R-TN), Nay
Cornyn (R-TX), Nay
Crapo (R-ID), Yea
Cruz (R-TX), Nay
Donnelly (D-IN), Yea
Durbin (D-IL), Yea
Enzi (R-WY), Yea
Feinstein (D-CA), Yea
Fischer (R-NE), Yea
Flake (R-AZ), Nay
Franken (D-MN), Yea
Gillibrand (D-NY), Yea
Graham (R-SC), Yea
Grassley (R-IA), Nay
Hagan (D-NC), Yea
Harkin (D-IA), Yea
Hatch (R-UT), Yea
Heinrich (D-NM), Yea
Heitkamp (D-ND), Yea
Heller (R-NV), Nay
Hirono (D-HI), Yea
Hoeven (R-ND), Yea
Inhofe (R-OK), Nay
Isakson (R-GA), Yea
Johanns (R-NE), Yea
Johnson (D-SD), Yea
Johnson (R-WI), Nay
Kaine (D-VA), Yea
King (I-ME), Yea
Kirk (R-IL), Yea
Klobuchar (D-MN), Yea
Landrieu (D-LA), Not Voting
Leahy (D-VT), Yea
Lee (R-UT), Nay
Levin (D-MI), Yea
Manchin (D-WV), Yea
Markey (D-MA), Nay
McCain (R-AZ), Nay
McCaskill (D-MO), Yea
McConnell (R-KY), Yea
Menendez (D-NJ), Yea
Merkley (D-OR), Yea
Mikulski (D-MD), Yea
Moran (R-KS), Yea
Murkowski (R-AK), Yea
Murphy (D-CT), Yea
Murray (D-WA), Yea
Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Paul (R-KY), Nay
Portman (R-OH), Yea
Pryor (D-AR), Yea
Reed (D-RI), Yea
Reid (D-NV), Yea
Risch (R-ID), Yea
Roberts (R-KS), Nay
Rockefeller (D-WV), Not Voting
Rubio (R-FL), Nay
Sanders (I-VT), Yea
Schatz (D-HI), Yea
Schumer (D-NY), Yea
Scott (R-SC), Nay
Sessions (R-AL), Nay
Shaheen (D-NH), Yea
Shelby (R-AL), Nay
Stabenow (D-MI), Yea
Tester (D-MT), Yea
Thune (R-SD), Yea
Toomey (R-PA), Not Voting
Udall (D-CO), Not Voting
Udall (D-NM), Yea
Vitter (R-LA), Not Voting
Warner (D-VA), Yea
Warren (D-MA), Nay
Whitehouse (D-RI), Yea
Wicker (R-MS), Yea
Wyden (D-OR), Yea

canopfor on February 3, 2014 at 7:18 PM

AP Politics ‏@AP_Politics 2h

5 things to know about the massive farm bill that could become law this week, reports @MCJalonick. http://apne.ws/1fCb1j7
==================================================

5 things to know about the massive farm bill
By MARY CLARE JALONICK
— Feb. 3, 2014 6:35 PM EST
**************************

Five things you should know about the farm bill:

WHERE THE MONEY GOES:

Most of the bill’s almost $100 billion-a-year price tag goes to the nation’s food stamp program, now known as SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. One in seven Americans, or about 47 million people, participates in the program. The legislation cuts food stamps by about $800 million, or 1 percent, by cracking down on states that seek to boost individual food stamp benefits by giving people small amounts of federal heating assistance that they don’t need. Much of the rest of the money goes to farm subsidies and programs to protect environmentally sensitive lands.

SUBSIDIES MAINTAINED:

Farmers will continue to receive generous federal subsidies that help them stay in business in an unpredictable environment, but through revamped programs. The bill eliminates a fixed $4.5 billion-a-year subsidy called direct payments, which are paid to farmers whether they farm or not. New subsidies would require farmers to incur losses before they could collect from the federal government. The bill would also overhaul dairy and cotton subsidies and transition them into similar insurance-style programs. Most farmers would pick between a program that would pay out when revenue dips or another that pays out when prices drop.

The legislation would also spend about $570 million more a year on crop insurance, which, on top of subsidies, protects farmers in the event of major losses.

CRACKDOWN ON FOOD STAMP FRAUD: The Agriculture Department has been aggressively tackling food stamp fraud in recent years and the final farm bill will add to that. It would step up efforts to reduce fraud by retailers who sell food stamps, track SNAP trafficking and ensure that people who have died do not receive benefits. The bill would also prohibit lottery winners and convicted murderers and sex offenders from receiving food stamps.

HEMP LAWS RELAXED: The bill would allow farmers to grow hemp, marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin, in 10 states as research projects. Those states already allow the growing of hemp, though federal drug law has blocked actual cultivation in most.

Hemp is often used in rope but has also been used to make clothing, mulch, foods, creams, soaps and lotions.

VICTORY FOR ANIMAL RIGHTS GROUPS: The No. 1 farm bill priority for animal rights groups was to defeat a House provision that would have blocked an upcoming California law requiring all eggs sold in the state to come from hens that live in larger cages. Livestock groups have fought the state law, which will be a major burden for egg producers in other states who use smaller cages and still want to sell eggs to the lucrative California market. The animal rights groups won, and the provision blocking the California law didn’t make it into the final bill.

The animal rights groups also won language that will make it a federal crime to attend an animal fighting event or bring a child to one.
(More………….)

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/5-things-know-about-massive-farm-bill

canopfor on February 3, 2014 at 7:29 PM