Sen. Mike Johanns expects Congress to vote soon on a new farm bill after negotiators from the Senate and House reached agreement on a compromise.
Johanns says it appears a two-year logjam might finally be broken.
“I think once it comes out, it will move quickly to see if it has the votes in the House and the Senate,” Johanns tells Nebraska Radio Network. “I’m very confident it will pass in the Senate.”
Johanns points out the Senate has twice approved a new farm bill only to have the House reject the measures.
Negotiators went back to work, emerging with a compromise that will be sent first to the House and, if accepted, will move to the Senate for its consideration.
Though both conservatives and liberals grouse about different aspects of the bill, it has one thing going for it as it hits the floors of both chambers: it saves money.
Johanns expects the bill to save up to $25 billion over its five-year lifespan. Others place the savings at about $23 billion.
A change in philosophy should provide the savings.
“I would also say what I have been saying all over the state and that is that direct payments are going to go away. This philosophy of we’ll pay farmers and just give them a straight out payment, that’s ending under this farm bill and I think for the Midwest, places like Nebraska, we’re going to see a farm bill where it’s more based on crop insurance, risk management,” according to Johanns, a former Secretary of Agriculture.
Johanns says the shift from direct payments to risk management through crop insurance makes sense. Johanns says that under crop insurance, farmers will make premium payments under a federally subsidized program.
“A year ago, they would have collected, because we had a huge drought. This last year, they didn’t. They paid premiums. They probably didn’t get anything back from that. But, having said that, I think farmers understand that and they’re willing to manage their risks that way.” Johanns says. ” I think from our standpoint here in Nebraska this will be a farm bill that works well for Nebraskans.”
The bill cuts the federal food stamp program; deeper than the legislation approved by the Senate, but not as deep as the House had approved. Under the compromise, the food stamp program would be cut by $8 billion over the next ten years.