It's never happened before, at least in the collective memory of agricultural policy influencers and observers: the House and Senate Agriculture Committees will mark up their respective drafts of the Farm Bill on back-to-back days this week. A Farm Bill that is at least a year late in the making could pass out of committee in a 48-hour period.
"This is my seventh farm bill, and I don't remember a time when we marked in both committees in the same month, let alone in the same week," said Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation. "We're hearing that the bill could actually reach the Senate floor as soon as Thursday."
Thatcher said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has expressed interest in getting the Farm Bill on the floor in his chamber yet this week, of not early next.
Such a swift dispatch of the committee mark-up process is a rapid departure from the 10-12 months since the agriculture committees in Congress last marked a farm bill draft. While the Senate passed its version of the Bill last June, the House version of the bill never saw floor debate.
The Senate Agriculture Committee marked its version of the Farm Bill last spring in a relatively rapid 5 hours; policy watchers attending the National Association of Farm Broadcasting's Washington Watch meeting told Feedstuffs that a repeat performance is somewhat expected when the panel convenes at 10 a.m. ET on May 14.
Twenty-four hours later, the House Agriculture Committee will begin its mark-up, and reports have indicated that House leadership are committed to getting the bill on the floor for debate sometime this summer.
AUDIO: Farm Bureau's Thatcher previewed the pending mark-up process, including the challenging differences between the two versions of the bill, during a recent episode of Feedstuffs In Focus, the podcast of big news in agriculture. Listen to her comments here.