Now, lawmakers will tackle amendments on everything from subsidies for millionaires to poultry feed research. The amendment discussions and votes start Tuesday and will alternate between Republican- and Democrat-proposed additions. It’s a crucial step, because without agreement on which amendments would see the floor, the bill was thought to be effectively dead, according to Roll Call.
Multiple sources familiar with Democratic negotiations said this week would be the do-or-die week for the bill, and the agreement reached later in the evening suggests there is life for legislation that just one week ago seemed to be headed toward a legislative coma.
There are three main divisive issues legislators are struggling with contained in the Farm Bill.
Crop insurance – Largely a regional issue, Southern rice and peanut interests say that doing away with farm subsidies in favor of building a more robust crop insurance system hurts them while aiding Midwestern corn and soybean farmers.
Food stamps – Republicans want to cut the food stamp program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. As it stands in the current near-$1 trillion legislation, SNAP benefits account for nearly $80 billion a year in spending. Democrats, especially those with urban bases of support, want to protect the program they call vital.
Sugar price supports – Both Midwestern sugar beet growers and Southern sugarcane growers say they can’t compete with heavily subsidized foreign sugar without subsidies of their own. Snack-food companies, though, want to get rid of the price supports
According to Roll Call, the amendment deal was only made possible thanks to old-fashioned political wrangling in the halls of Congress, and even the cloakroom. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, worked with her caucus to push a deal through while Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, the ranking Republican on the Ag Committee, ironed out Republican issues.