Sen. Mike Johanns expects a farm bill to pass Congress before current legislation expires, but he expects to encounter a few bumps along the way.
Johanns expects the Senate Agriculture Committee to take up where it left off late last year.
“I do believe 95% of what was passed by the Senate last year will be in this bill,” Johanns tells Nebraska Radio Network. “I don’t think we’ll see a lot of surprises in the vast, vast majority of the bill.”
A couple of issues threaten a smooth road to passage.
Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow of Michigan has indicated she wants to incorporate a national standard for laying hen cages in the legislation, something that has drawn fire from farm groups, such as the Nebraska Farm Bureau.
Also, southern senators have sought protection for rice and peanut farmers, even suggesting that direct payments should continue for those farmers.
Johanns, though, sees the overall philosophy agreed upon last year holding.
“The overall philosophy is going to be based upon crop insurance and managing risks,” Johanns says. “I believe the overall philosophy is the elimination of direct payments.”
Another sticking point has been SNAP payments or the food stamp program. Most agree it needs to be cut, but that is meeting resistance. Some senators from urban states threaten to fight proposed cuts which could total as much as $4.1 billion over the next 10 years. The House likely will consider even deeper cuts.
Last year, the Senate approved a farm bill. The House Agriculture Committee also approved its version of the farm bill, but House leadership refused to bring the bill to the floor for debate. Congress adjourned without approving a measure.
The current farm bill expires at the end of September.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]