The Senate this week started debate on the 2013 farm bill, which began Wednesday with consideration of amendments on the repeal of the sugar program (defeated) and then moved to multiple amendments on reorganizing the crop insurance program.  The Senate adjourned Thursday afternoon for its Memorial Day recess and will resume debate on the measure next Tuesday with other amendments regarding the crop insurance program.  At adjournment, there were over 170 amendments filed, and it is unclear at this point how many of those will be brought for debate.

During the debate on Thursday, the Senate overwhelmingly rejected an amendment from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would have allowed states to require labeling of genetically modified foods.   In a news release, Sanders said his amendment was an attempt to clarify that states can require the labels, as several legislatures have moved toward putting such laws into place. The Vermont house and the Connecticut senate voted this month to make food companies declare genetically modified ingredients on their packages.  The Senate rejected the amendment on a 71-27 vote.

NCC joined a diverse coalition in sending a letter in support of an amendment offered by Arizona Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake regarding ethanol.  Specifically, the amendment would protect taxpayers from being forced to pay for ethanol pumps and storage facilities in the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), a program in the farm bill energy title that was intended to support wind, solar, and hydropower energy systems.  “Taxpayers have supported corn ethanol for over thirty years, and it is time that subsidies for this mature industry were ended once and for all,” the letter noted.  It is unclear whether this amendment will be considered.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced this week that he has scheduled floor time for completion of both the farm bill and immigration reform, and then will start debate of those FY2014 appropriations measures ready for the floor.

House Leadership also announced this week that floor time has been set aside for consideration of the House-passed farm bill the week of June 17.