Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee Chairwoman Stabenow (D-Mich.) formally introduced The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act (S. 3240) that was approved 16-5 by the full Committee on April 26.

The formal introduction is necessary so the legislation can be considered by the full Senate.

Chairwoman Stabenow has been quoted in numerous publications as saying the legislation will be considered by the Senate in early June, but no specific date has been announced. In a news release, she stated, “This bill has strong bipartisan support from Senators across the country and I am looking forward to beginning floor consideration soon.”

Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-Nev.) said he will make floor time available for the farm bill, but he gave no details on its scheduling. He said the Senate has a full agenda in June with bills dealing with small business tax cuts, paycheck fairness, student loan rates and cyber security legislation when they return from the Memorial Day recess on June 4.

A copy of the bill can be accessed on the Senate Agriculture Committee’s website, www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill.

During an appearance on a NPR radio talk show, Chairwoman Stabenow raised an issue that has dominated debate behind the scenes since the Committee reported the bill. When asked about Southern Senators’ complaints that the revenue program won’t work for rice and peanuts, she said, “A lot of folks would argue they’ve gotten more back than their percentage of the baseline.”

A Stabenow spokesman said she was referring to the fact that “folks would argue some crops receive a greater share of the payments than their share of production.”

Negotiations continue

Chairwoman Stabenow said she is continuing to negotiate with Southern Senators and that she and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Lucas (R-Okla.), are “good friends” and noted that they worked together on the proposal that went to the Committee on Deficit Reduction last year.

That proposal included a target price and counter-cyclical option, which Chairman Lucas has said he intends to include in the House bill that he expects to consider in his committee in June.

“We’ll end up compromising,” Chairwoman Stabenow said about her relationship with Lucas and the Senate and House bills. House Agriculture General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee Chairman Conaway (R-Texas) said on NPR that the House bill “will make the safety net fair across regions.”

Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its official score of S. 3240. CBO estimates that enactment would bring total direct spending for USDA programs covered under the bill to $969 billion over 2013-2022 — $23.6 billion less than would be spent with a continuation of programs under current law.

The commodity title would repeal most current agricultural price and income support programs for crop and dairy producers, and CBO estimates that federal spending on commodity programs would total $43.2 billion over 2013-2022 — or $19.8 billion less than expected if current law was continued.

CBO estimates that the new Agriculture Risk Coverage payments “would average $3.2 billion per year; however, actual payments from year to year would probably vary considerably from that expected average payment.”

The bill also would authorize appropriations over 2013-2017 for existing and new USDA programs involving research and education, nutrition, trade promotion, rural development, credit assistance, forestry and conservation initiatives. CBO estimates that implementing those provisions would cost about $28 billion over the next five years, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts.

The CBO report is at www.agri-pulse.com/uploaded/CBO_Pub_S3240.pdf.