By Gabrielle Serra
On Thursday, April 26, the proposed farm bill legislation referred to as The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 passed through the Senate Agriculture Committee with a 16-5 vote that demonstrated bipartisan support.
This legislation would save $24.7 billion over the next ten years, with cuts coming primarily from the elimination of direct payments, streamlining conservation programs, and tightening requirements for determining households’ eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.
The Senate Agriculture Committee was originally scheduled to mark-up this legislation on Wednesday, April 25; however, the meeting was delayed largely due to unresolved issues regarding proposed changes to the farm safety net. Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Roberts (R-KS) moved quickly to resolve as many issues as possible in order to bring the legislation to the Committee for mark-up before the Chamber was to break for a week-long state work period.
The legislation was voted favorably out of Committee by a bipartisan vote of 16-5, including no votes from Senators Chambliss (R-GA), Cochran (R-MI), McConnell (R-KY), Boozman (R-AR) due to opposition to changes made to the commodity title, as well as a no vote from Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) who objected to the cuts in nutrition programs.
While the mark-up demonstrated significant leadership by the Chairwoman and Ranking Member to achieve bipartisan support for the bulk of the bill, it also shed light on the fact that there continues to be significant concern and opposition to proposed changes to the commodity programs and the farm safety net. Resolving these issues will be crucial in order for Senate leadership to bring this legislation to the floor for a vote.
Meanwhile, the House Agriculture Committee will convene a series of farm bill hearings in May. It is not yet clear when Chairman Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Petersen (D-MN) will be ready to propose their farm bill legislation, but it is expected that what happens in the Senate will be important for providing momentum and support to help drive House action.
For more information on the policy details and what’s at stake in the Senate farm bill legislation, we encourage you to read the analyses by our Steering Committee members and other partners in the agriculture, food, and nutrition community.