SenateRejects Key Amendments;
Overwhelmingly Approves 2007 Farm Bill

Friday, December 14, 2007                        By Shawn Wade

      Supportersof the Senate Agriculture Committee's 2007 Farm Bill proposal rallied togetherthis week, winning final passage of the bill. This sets the stage for apost-New Year conference with the House of Representatives and hopefully thecompletion of the legislation in early 2008.

      By a vote of 79 to 14 theU.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved the Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act of2007, H.R. 2419, on Friday, December 14, 2007. While final Senate passage willno doubt be remembered as an important moment in the bill's evolution, historyis more likely to judge the debate leading up to the final vote, and inparticular the events of Thursday, December 13, 2007, as the key to eventualextension of the highly successful, and fiscally responsible, safety netprovisions of the 2002 Farm Bill.

      The Senate package, asproposed by the Senate Agriculture Committee, contained significant reforms inmany areas, including pay limits and program eligibility requirements. Themeasure also provides significant new investments in conservation, specialtycrops and food and nutrition programs that will allow most, if not all,affected constituencies to claim some level of victory.

      The road to Senate passagewas not an easy one by any measure, says PCG Executive Vice President SteveVerett.

      "There was a lot of hard workand a lot of thought put into the provisions of this bill," said Verett. "Itwas a pleasure to see virtually every segment of production agriculture cometogether to support this bill, and to actively engage in the process ofeducating members of Congress unfamiliar with the issues involved."

      Verett notes that thelegislation's supporters were ultimately successful in beating back all of theamendments from perennial farm bill opponents who were not satisfied with thereforms agreed to by the Senate Agriculture Committee.

      Of primary concern to farmbill supporters were four amendments that were debated and defeated on theSenate floor during the course of the debate.

      The first of these amendmentswas the proposal by Senators Richard Lugar (R- IN) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)to replace current commodity support programs with an area-based crop insuranceprogram. The measure was debated on December 11, and handily defeated with a37-58 vote.

      That vote seemed to set thestage for the next round of significant action that began on December 12 andconcluded with floor votes on December 13.

      During the course of the day,votes on the three remaining amendments that sought to make significantadditional changes to the Senate Agriculture Committee's bill followed thescript written earlier in the week.

      The first of these amendmentsto come to a vote was the Dorgan/Grassley Payment Limitation amendment. Putforward by Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) and needing60 votes to pass, the amendment was withdrawn after it failed on a 56-43 vote.

      Next in the queue was theamendment from Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to further tighten the means teston farm program participants, but leave the $2.5 million means test forconservation program participation unchanged. Also needing 60 votes to pass,the measure was withdrawn after it managed to draw only 48 in favor.

      Having gone 2-for-2 on theday, farm bill supporters turned their attention to what most observers feltwas the last remaining major hurdle for the legislation, the amendment fromSenator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) that proposed to make detrimental cuts to theFederal Crop Insurance program, the proceeds of which would be redirected toother purposes. The Brown amendment was soundly defeated on a 32-63 vote.

      Closerto home, Texas Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison supported theSenate Committee bill on final passage and by voting against all of theamendments discussed above.

      "Agricultureis the second largest contributor to the Texas economy," notes Verett, "and itis clear that both Senators Cornyn and Hutchison understand the importance ofthis critical legislation to Texas agriculture. It shouldn't go without saying,though, that High Plains cotton producers, and the agribusinesses they rely on,are appreciative of the votes our Senators cast on their behalf this week."

      Thenext step in the process is consideration by the House-Senate ConferenceCommittee, a process which is expected to start in early 2008. With relativelysimilar provisions in both the House and Senate versions of the legislation, itis expected that the budget provisions required under Congresses "Pay-Go"provisions will be the most contentious issues to work through.     Whilefar from over, Senate passage of the Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act of2007, H.R. 2419, this week brings the finish line one giant step closer. Italso ensures that America's farmers and ranchers can enjoy the holiday seasonwith one less worry on their minds.

 

2007 High Plains Cotton Quality Summary

 

 

Week Ending December 13, 2007:

 

Office

Bales

Color

Leaf

Staple

Lamesa

90,843

21+

2.35

36.24

Lubbock

298,161

21+

2.43

36.16

 

Mike

Strength

Uniformity

Bark

Lamesa

4.23

30.14

80.91

4.7%

Lubbock

4.05

29.77

80.69

1.9%

 

 

Season Totals To Date:

 

Office

Bales

Color

Leaf

Staple

Lamesa

640,210

21+

2.23

36.11

Lubbock

2,130,624

21+

2.38

36.00

 

Mike

Strength

Uniformity

Bark

Lamesa

4.22

29.95

80.92

3.9%

Lubbock

4.08

29.64

80.66

1.5%