U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., expects the farm bill proposal passed by her committee to be brought up for floor debate in early June.

There will probably be a lot of amendments offered and debated. These will include efforts to cut the SNAP (food stamp) program, tighten payment limits, restore target prices and link conservation compliance to crop insurance participation, among others.

Senator Stabenow claims to have the 60 votes needed to pass the farm bill, but other observers aren’t so sure. The debate in the Senate should be very interesting.

It appears that the House farm bill proposal will be significantly different from the Senate bill. The House bill, which has not yet been written, is expected to retain the target price – counter cyclical payment system (at least for some crops) and make much deeper cuts to food and nutrition programs instead.

Ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., thinks the bills in both houses must be passed by early August to be approved yet this year. That’s a critical deadline because the current farm bill expires September 30.

The Senate Agriculture Committee-passed farm bill proposal replaces direct and counter cyclical payments with a new Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program.

ARC would generally make payments when revenue falls by about 11% below the benchmark level with a part of the losses covered for the next 10% decline in revenue. And analysis by the University of Illinois warns that ARC payments will decline over time of we have several years of low prices, because the benchmark revenue will gradually be reduced.

If that happens, production costs would need to decline for crop production to remain profitable. A report from the University of Montana shows that the ARC program could cost a lot more money than currently forecast if crop prices fall to recent historical averages.