The Senate Agriculture Committee released on Friday the text of its farm bill language, which includes some adjustments to conservation programs.
The acreage cap under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) would be increased one million acres to 25 million acres. The bill also lowers the annual rental rate for both general and continuous sign-ups to 88.5 percent of the county rental rate. A new CRP provision would create a Conservation Reserve Easement Program to pay landowners to permanently give up their rights as well those of all future owners to engage in crop production on the land.
The House Agriculture Committee’s farm bill would increase CRP to 29 million acres and lower rental rates to 80 percent of the average county rental value. In contrast to the House’s version, which eliminated the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Senate bill leaves CSP as a standalone program, but reduces the acreage cap from 10 million acres to 7.797 million.
Within the farm program section, the Senate bill would tighten the means test for commodity programs, reducing the adjusted gross income to qualify for subsidies from $900,000 to $700,000 a year.
Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said they wanted a bill that could receive bipartisan support and move quickly through the committee, which is scheduled to consider the bill on Wednesday, June 13.
During the farm bill process, the NGFA is encouraging lawmakers to support reforms to the CRP called for under the “Give Our Resources the Opportunity to Work” (GROW) Act, including capping acreage at the current 24 million acres, targeting enrollment to environmentally sensitive land and reforming rental rates. NGFA members have the opportunity to advocate for CRP reform here.
Meanwhile, the House has until June 22 to reconsider its farm bill, H.R. 2, which failed to pass on the House floor last month after facing strong opposition from Democrats and some moderate Republicans, who opposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the bill, as well as the conservative House Freedom Caucus intent on forcing action on a separate immigration and border security bill. House leaders are trying to work out an agreement with the House Freedom Caucus for a vote on the immigration legislation sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., before voting on the farm bill again.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he wants the chamber to take up its farm bill before the July 4 recess. The current farm bill expires on Sept. 30.