Tuesday Roundup: Rural Development Vote
The Senate came to an agreement late Monday on a deal that will likely end with the passage of a new farm bill.
Senators will begin voting on 73 amendments to the bill today and hope to finish some time Wednesday. “This is a day I didn’t think would ever happen,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) before reciting the elaborate parliamentary understanding. “It’s not a great agreement. But it is a good agreement.”
One amendment would maintain a rural development program in the farm bill. As it stands now, there is no money for rural development in the farm bill, the first time rural development has been left out of a farm bill in decades.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, is sponsoring the amendment (#2445) that would fund a scaled-back rural development program. EDITOR'S NOTE: Brown's amendment passed 55 to 44.
Brown's amendment would cost $150 million and would pay for four programs:
The Value-Added Producer Grant Program would receive $50 million. It is currently unfunded.
The Rural Micro-entrepreneur Assistance Program would receive $15 million. It is currently unfunded.
Water and wastewater projects would receive $50 million. This is currently unfunded.
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program would be raised from $50 million to $85 million.
Another amendment would restore cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps. That is being offered by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat.
At the same time, Republicans are offering amendments that would deeper cuts to food stamps, which are now costing $80 billion a year.
The amendments cover the waterfront. One by Sen Mike Johanns of Nebraska would bar the EPA from making aerial inspections of farms and ag facilities. One that is receiving a lot of support from independent cattle groups comes from Sen. Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican, that would make mandatory checkoff programs voluntary.
Some amendments have nothing to do with farms or rural communities at all. For instance, the Senate will vote on an amendment offered by John McCain (Arizona) and Patty Murray (Washington) that would require an Office of Management and Budget study of the mandatory spending cuts set to take effect in January as part of last year's budget compromise.
Chris Clayton has a full list of amendments here.
• The Congressional Research Service has produced an 11-page report that serves as a primer on the Postal Service, post offices and the whole effort at postal reform. You can get it here.
The report begins with the basics, answering the question, What Is a Post Office? It tells us how many post offices there are (42,287 in 1971; 35,119 in 2011). The report goes through all the proposals, bills and amendments. Nothing but the facts, mam.
• President Obama's cabinet secretaries are hitting the road, with Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack headed to southwest Virginia to "appeal to rural voters," according to the Washington Post. Oh, the Post adds that Vilsack is on his personal time and is not making an official visit.