Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Thursday said she expects the Senate to wrap up a vote on the Farm Bill by the end of May.
Stabenow addressed the timeline in a press call, noting she was "optimistic" about the Senate passing the Farm Bill before immigration reform legislation comes to the floor.
"It appears they have a ways to go," Stabenow said, referring to the immigration bill process. She indicated that Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who is leading the immigration discussion, is a supporter of the Farm Bill and will likely push to keep it on the docket.
Stabenow expects debate to start as quickly as possible next week, and is urging legislators to develop and submit amendments now.
"Given the bipartisan cooperation, we're going to move through the week and we'll see where we are at the end of the week. But I'm very confident we're going to move through here in a positive way," she said.
Part of that positivity may stem from previous actions to add nearly all of the Farm Bill amendments offered on the Senate floor in 2012 to this year's base bill, which may help expedite the debate process.
Though several amendments will hopefully be off the table, discussion is expected regarding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the target price program. Like many Congress members have speculated, conferencing the bill won't be easy.
Stabenow said even though the House's effort to eliminate categorical eligibility for SNAP won't be acceptable to the Senate, they will look for ways to provide savings by ending abuse and misuse.
"In my mind, whether it's crop insurance or food assistance, it's the same principle," Stabenow noted. "This is about having support there in a disaster, whether it's for a farmer or a family."
Target prices, which also got a good look in the Senate Ag Committee Tuesday, could see more discussion. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said during markup that the new Adverse Market Payment program, which provides higher target prices for rice and peanuts specifically, could be trade-distorting.
But Stabenow wasn't concerned, explaining that she "respects differences" among colleagues, and the reason for decoupling the AMP program from planting decisions is to address trade concerns.
"When we move from subsidies to a new, market-driven risk management system it means that we have to carefully design that so every region of the country is treated fairly," Stabenow said.
"I'm proud of what we've been able to do and I look forward to passing it through the Senate and conference committee and getting it to the President."
The House is expected to address their version of the bill in June.
Catch up on more 2013 Farm Bill Coverage:
Ag Interests React To House Farm Bill
House Ag Committee Passes 2013 Farm Bill
Senate Farm Bill Headed To Floor
Senate Ag Committee To Begin Farm Bill Mark Up
Draft of Senate's 2013 Farm Bill Released
House Releases Farm Bill Draft