Agriculture will probably be in the general news this week as Congress returns to work after a week-long July 4 holiday. And it's likely that the partisan wrangling is far from over.
Already there's talk of splitting the farm out of the farm bill - a move opposed by most major farm groups - but one gaining some credence by groups that think the fight over nutrition programs (the holdup that killed the farm bill in the House) should be separate from talk about crop insurance and farm conservation measures.
And Immigration is on tap too. The Senate has passed an immigration bill, but the House is still aiming for some kind of compromise. The biggest challenge is staunch opposition by many House Republicans to the idea of a "path to citizenship." However, farmers using illegal laborers - due to a farm labor shortage - will be watching to see if some immigration measure can be passed to get the idea into Conference committee to get a compromise through.
The House version of the farm bill is the first to actually fail in a floor vote in history. And while many look to the Sept. 30 deadline as a hard stop the bill. It appears lawmakers may be willing to limp along with extensions. Interestingly, the Senate farm bill would save $4 billion or more in part due to an end to direct payments to farmers. That has been a hot button issue, and the failed House version also contained an end to direct payments.
The "continuation" moves on the farm bill have kept direct payments in place, but raise more questions about what farmers will have as a safety net for the future. Crop insurance is coming under increasing fire, even after the worst drought in 50 years showed that farmers do need a safety net. The battle is over just how much subsidization farmers should receive.
Blogger Jacqui Fatka takes a look at the issues impacting the farm bill debate this week. She also offered an in-depth look at the Senate immigration bill that offers some background on the issues ahead there too.