House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., indicated this week that he would like to begin marking up farm bill legislation around the middle of May. Signaling increased farm bill work, the committee announced a hearing next Wednesday, April 24 to review horticulture priorities for the 2013 Farm Bill.
The Senate Agriculture Committee has not made an announcement regarding when it might begin mark-up, but it is now anticipated to be sometime in May as well. Both committees have signaled intention of having a bill out of committee before Memorial Day.
Indiana Senators Introduce Farm Flex Legislation
Senator Dan Coats, R-Ind. and Senator Joe Donnelly D-Ind., this week introduced the Farming Flexibility Act of 2013. The bill would permanently implement a program that allows farmers to voluntarily forgo federal subsidies and opt out of restrictions regarding fruit and vegetable production on program crop base acres so they can produce specialty crops to meet growing market demands.
The 2008 Farm Bill established a pilot Farm Flex program that expires September 30, 2013.
“Gang of Eight” Senators Produce Immigration Reform Compromise
The “Gang of Eight” senators who have been working on a compromise regarding immigration reform announced a proposal they hope to move forward in the near future.
The legislation seeks to provide a pathway to legal status for about 11 million undocumented immigrants to the U.S., including millions of farm workers. Specific to agriculture, the bill would create a new “blue card” program for experienced farm workers, and a new version of the current agricultural worker visa program.
Members of the “Gang of Eight” include Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., John McCain, R-Ariz., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.