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Senate farm bill delay possible

Senate ag leaders face a looming deadline Thursday of this week to finish the Senate farm bill or risk having to pass yet another farm bill extension.

Critical to the issue is an agreement to limit amendments; farm bill Senators will try to get a deal to whittle down some 180 remaining amendments to a more manageable number, likely around 50, and get the bill done this week.

National Farmers Union’s Chandler Goule says without such an agreement, the farm bill might have to be delayed until after must-do immigration reform.

If any Senator objects to the en bloc [amendment], or objects to their amendment not being brought up, technically, yes, one Senator could hold up the entire farm bill to be postponed after the immigration consideration, therefore ultimately increasing the chances of an additional extension considerably, which would be very detrimental to U.S. farmers and ranchers.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid could file a so-called cloture motion to limit remaining debate time, but Goule is still hopeful a deal will be struck on amendments shortly. Barring that, Reid has vowed to start work on immigration reform, leaving the farm bill in doubt. Goule says with the large number of amendments, a deal is needed to get the bill done by a Thursday deadline.

Since May, Goule says the Senate has only handled about 20 farm bill amendments. He says a breadth of amendments still exists covering important topics such as SNAP, crop insurance, more conservation amendments and rural development, to name a few.

And Goule says any Senate Farm Bill delay could be fatal, especially with the House waiting again to see what the Senate does. If there is a delay in the Senate, House leadership could interpret it as a signal to continue waiting on their version.

With Senators returning from Memorial Day Recess now, Goule says the Senate Farm Bill picture could become much clearer in short order.