The House narrowly rejected a package of farm bill proposals by Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., that would have ended federal crop insurance premiums for farm operations with adjusted gross incomes of more than $250,000, limited the amount of premium subsidies to $50,000 per person per year, capped reimbursements to private crop insurance companies and limited their rate of return to 12 percent. The proposals fell on a close 208-217 vote.
“For most commodity groups, means-testing would be a very, very difficult concession to discuss,” Doggett said.
Farm groups, however, are willing to back a requirement that farmers comply with conservation plans to protect soil and water to retain crop insurance, Doggett said. The National Corn Growers Association is part of a coalition of farm groups, the crop insurance industry and wildlife and conservation groups that have lobbied for the conservation compliance as an alternative to means testing.
The Senate bill contains the compliance language as well as a provision that would reduce crop insurance premiums by 15 percent for farmers with adjusted gross incomes of more than $750,000.
Means-testing might drive large farm operations out of the crop insurance program, leaving fewer acres insured or under active conservation management, he said.
“Would the public rather have a 600-acre farm under a conservation plan or a 6,000-acre farm under a conservation plan?” Doggett asked.
Although the farm bill is now stalled, lawmakers who want changes to programs under the Agriculture Department’s jurisdiction may have a new target.
The fiscal 2014 agriculture spending bill could go to the House floor as soon as the week of June 24. Democrats say the $6.7 billion proposed for the popular Women, Infants and Children program is inadequate. Robert B. Aderholt, R-Ala., chairman of the Agriculture appropriations subcommittee, says the funding is enough to meet the needs of the expected caseload, which the panel says is slightly smaller than the administration’s figure of 8.9 million people per month.
Kind may reprise his crop insurance proposals as amendments to the spending bill. “That’s a possibility,” Peter Knudsen said.
However, the agriculture spending bill was not listed on the majority leader’s weekly schedule issued on Friday evening, perhaps a sign of dissent associated with it as well. It remained listed on the Rules Committee website.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.