House panel opposes Senate crop insurance reforms

WASHINGTON Thu Jul 12, 2012 9:56am EDT

1 of 2. A farm is seen in the distance behind corn fields in Redkey, Indiana June 28, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Brent Smith

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House Agriculture Committee challenged two crop insurance reforms approved by the Senate, creating another farm-bill dispute with time running out to enact the new law.

Besides disagreeing on crop insurance, the House would increase crop price supports by up to 40 percent while the Senate would end the subsidies. And the House would cut four times as much money as the Senate from food stamps for the poor.

Agriculture Committee members approved their five-year farm bill, 35-11, early on Thursday at the end of a 15-hour "mark up" session.

Drawn up by committee leaders, it would save $35 billion over 10 years, including $16 billion coming from food stamps and $14 billion in farm subsidies.

Farm lobbyists said it was unlikely the House would act formally on the bill until the lame-duck session following the November congressional elections.

They foresaw a ferocious fight over food stamps and likely efforts to cut crop subsidies more.

If the House does not pass the farm bill before the August recess, it will be virtually impossible to write a final compromise version of the bill before the Sept 30 expiration of the 2008 farm law.

Senators voted, 52-47, to require farmers to practice conservation to qualify for federally subsidized crop insurance.

They voted 66-33 to reduce the premium subsidy available to operators with more than $750,000 adjusted gross income a year.

Both were backed as reforms that would save money and prevent erosion.

But Agriculture Committee leaders decided neither step merited inclusion in their bill and no one suggested adding them. Chairman Frank Lucas, an Oklahoma Republican, said there was no support for the ideas: "We listened to our people."

"It is not our job to decide how big a farm should be," said Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the Democratic leader on the panel, arguing that it would be unfair to limit aid to some growers. "That is what the farm bill is about, putting a safety net on production."

Lawmakers must resolve disagreements between House and Senate bills before legislation can be enacted.

Lucas said he would press for House debate as soon as possible.

On farm subsidies, the Senate would replace traditional subsidies with payments to compensate grain and soybean growers when revenue from a crop was 11-21 percent below average. Crop insurance would cover larger losses.

The House has a similar but less generous plan in its bill and also offers higher support prices.

Both bills would kill the $5 billion a year "direct payment" subsidy that is a target of reformers. Each would create a separate revenue protection program for cotton.

The food stamp cuts were attacked from both sides during the bill-drafting session. There were unsuccessful proposals by Democrats for no cuts or to match the Senate at $4 billion and from a Republican to double the cuts to $33 billion.

"We're going to lose some votes, no question about it," said Peterson, anticipating some loss of support for the bill.

Just before approving the bill, the committee adopted an amendment by Iowa Republican Steve King to prevent state laws, such as California on eggs, from restricting the sale of farm products based on how they were produced.

Beginning in 2015, California will bar sale of eggs from chickens kept in so-called battery cages, a complementary step to its rule on poultry care.

King said his amendment would reinforce the Constitution's guarantee of interstate commerce. Kurt Schrader, Oregon Democrat, said the amendment, by infringing on state power, would be so controversial it could kill the farm bill.

The House bill also would create an undersecretary for trade at USDA to put more emphasis on developing U.S. exports and assuring fair trade rules.

(Reporting by Charles Abbott; editing by Jason Neely)

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Comments (3)
Zannie wrote:
Yes, now is a great time to cut back on food stamps! Food pantries are seeing record number of people coming in, including many of the former Middle Class, and the “we care about the individual” GOP is going to slash food stamps. How nice of them.

Jul 12, 2012 2:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
neahkahnie wrote:
GOP = Tax Cuts for the rich. Food Stamp cuts for the poor. We know where they stand.

Jul 12, 2012 3:56pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
JBltn wrote:
The starkly contrasting legislative intent between the Senate “bi-partisan” approach to Agricultural Crop Insurance Reform legislation and the bill passed by the GOP majority in the House Agriculture Committee is unmistakeable. The House version increases government subsidy to crop price insurance for Corporate growers by 40 percent while the Senate version ends such subsidy and quadruple the cuts supporting the Food Stamp Program in the Senate bill only demonstrates their overwhelming arrogance and casual readiness to misuse government rule-making power to benefit only a few afluent major corporate farmers without any regard of or care for the millions of Americans that will go hungry because of their drastic cuts to The food stamp program.

IMHO, the current House of Representatives,’Congress’, in session, the uninterrupted 112th iteration, under a GOP majority and these particular leaders, has demonstrated, like none other in the last century, the philosophical and actuality gap inherent within and between a Representative Democracy [US] and a True Democracy [none], form of government; the ease that the former morphed into fascism, almost unnoticed, certainly unopposed, but vehemently denied by, apathetic & uninvolved spectators, that only vote for ‘so-called, TV Entertainment Channel, pre-scripted,’Reality Shows.

Jul 16, 2012 7:37pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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