Lobbyists are girding for a slew of battles on the farm bill, which will hit the Senate floor in early June.
There are many hurdles to getting a farm bill to President Obama’s desk this election year. As a bipartisan group of senators work to pass the measure through the upper chamber, the farm bill is not on the House’s summer agenda.
The Senate Agriculture Committee bill is widely supported by the farming community, but its $23.6 billion in deficit reduction is too small for some budget hawks.
Lobbyists expect numerous amendments on the floor aimed at reducing farm subsidy spending through payment limitations and means testing. It is not yet clear if an open amendment process will be allowed or if a consent agreement can be reached to limit changes.
Southern senators are also still dissatisfied with the bill because rice and peanut subsidies are cut too deeply in their view, and talks with Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) have not yielded results yet.
At this point objections by rice and peanut farmers to the bill are not likely to be resolved in the upper chamber, leaving them for an eventual House-Senate conference committee to work out, sources said.
But to get to conference assumes it will pass the House and Senate.
McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, is not fond of the bill. He said, “Instead of including initiatives that streamline the U.S. Department of Agriculture and reform nutrition programs, this year’s bill spends a trillion dollars and achieves insignificant reforms to major programs.”