Under both the Senate bill and the House Ag Committee proposal, upland cotton, while remaining eligible for the commodity loan program, would not be afforded price or revenue support as in previous bills.   

A striking feature of the Senate version is its emphasis on risk management choices, which some lawmakers have termed as a “Shallow Loss” program. Within the current bill, it is designed to complement conventional crop insurance coverage.

“The crop insurance title would manage the majority of specific commodity revenue risks,” Novak says, “While the Senate’s Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program would provide supplemental coverage.”

“It would cover losses incurred on individual farms, or the producer could opt to use county acreage averages to secure a level of protection on top of that afforded by crop insurance.”

The House offers risk coverage, characterized by some lawmakers as a Deep-Loss Program, which is designed to take the place of ACRE, direct and counter-cyclical payments. While the House’s deep-loss program is technically a departure from counter-cyclical payments, some farm bill observers have noted a resemblance to this program, Novak says.

Another fundamental difference is reflected in the House Ag Committee version. Under this version, the option to update yields and to participate in a commodity support program is assigned to the landowner.

However, under the Senate bill, producers would be afforded the option to participate in county or individual support options.

“Allowing producers the choice of commodity program options would be a significant departure from past farm bills,” Novask says.

While elements of previous farm legislation is preserved in both proposals, including provisions that apparently preserve base acreage, both these proposals reflect significant philosophical departures from earlier farm bills, he says. This is reflected in provisions calling for removing the eligibility of upland cotton from the commodity price and revenue support list.

One area of contention that may prove to be a major stumbling block toward reconciliation involves the notable differences in proposed cuts for the nutrition program. 

The Senate version of the bill would cut some $4.3 billion from this title, while the House Ag Committee version seeks a considerably higher $16 billion.

Meanwhile, conservation programs are slated for consolidation along with cuts under both bills. 

Upland cotton is moved to the Crop Insurance Title of both House and Senate bills and is given a group risk revenue protection program (STAX) which augments conventional crop insurance coverage.

Budgetary considerations and partisan politics are likely to play a significant role as the two versions are reconciled, Novak says, adding that the partisan divisions within the House are deeper than they have been in years. 

Largely for this reason passing this farm bill will present a fundamentally different challenge from previous bills, Novak says.