● The Senate’s version of the Farm Bill, S.3240, today cleared its first procedural hurdle by easily surviving a cloture vote (90-8). Debate will now take place over the next few weeks on floor amendments to this measure, which includes federal funding for such things as nutrition, agricultural research, conservation, export marketing, and crop insurance. Its counterpart bill in the House of Representatives has yet to reach full bloom.
● With crop insurance being now viewed as a partial alternative to direct payments for the traditional commodity program crops, a good deal of attention will be devoted to the large costs associated with subsidizing the premiums paid by growers. While tree fruit has traditionally not been too active in the politics of crop insurance, it was of interest when the Environmental Working Group released a report on federal crop insurance last week that said there were twenty-six policy holders in the nation, who, in 2011, received more than $1 million dollars in premium subsidies. Three of these were from Washington State—one diversified specialty crop grower, but the other two being producers of apples and cherries.
● One of the reasons behind the push by agricultural groups to enact a new Farm Bill this summer is the legislative chaos expected after the general election on November 6. A lame duck session of Congress will take place: Tax rates, budget sequestration, and raising the federal debt ceiling all loom on a dark and lowering political horizon.
● Retirements of the Ks: This October, Robert Keeney as USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s deputy administrator for fruit and vegetable programs; Richard Kinney as executive vice president of Florida Citrus Packers effective June 1; and Richard Krause, an expert on the Endangered Species Act, as senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation in August.