Updated 1:57 p.m. | Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts has assurances from his leadership to reverse crop insurance cutbacks in the budget and debt limit deal that's currently on the Senate floor.
"This commitment is in reference to the obvious need to remedy the language adversely affected our nation's farmers and ranchers now included in the bipartisan budget act," the Kansas Republican said Thursday.
Roberts said he'd been working closely with House Agriculture Chairman K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, who has already secured commitments from his leadership and House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers to undo the changes later this year. The Kansan said Conaway had "a tough trail, but Mike got it done."
"We have all agreed here to restore these funds to the program, and reverse this policy, and do so with support from the House and the Senate," Roberts said.
McConnell, who is, like Rogers, a Kentucky Republican, said on the floor he had heard from folks in his native commonwealth about the changes. A senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, McConnell was also a lead negotiator on the two-year budget agreement that had called for changes in the crop insurance operation.
"The folks rely heavily on the notion that a bad crop yield year will not stop their ability to continue farming, because of the certainty provided through this crop insurance program," McConnell said.
McConnell affirmed House leadership would work first to reverse the cutbacks as part the omnibus spending debate come December, and that he would work to support that effort to find new offsets for the $3 billion that will not be saved by reversing the crop insurance changes.
Away from the floor, Roberts said it was "yet to be decided" if he would back the overall budget deal that would suspend the debt limit into March 2017, but he said he was pleased the crop insurance situation would be resolved.
"That's the egregious part of this deal. If you do this you’re going to devastate crop insurance, and a lot of farmers are going to be out of business, and small banks are going to be out of business. So if you can fix this, yes that's what we want to do," Roberts said.
He cautioned senators to look at the big picture: "If you’re able to achieve something like this, you vote for crop insurance [even] if you’re not especially voting for the deal."
John T. Bennett contributed to this report.
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