Many important pieces of legislation look to be on the move in the next few weeks and into May on the Senate side.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate "must complete work on job-creating water resources legislation and a farm bill during the May work period, so we can move forward on the immigration debate in June."
While speaking at the Senate Democrat Rural Summit April 25, Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) said she plans on marking up a farm bill in May, as early as possible, although she did not give a specific date. The House has set its markup for May 15.
Last year Stabenow helped lead a bipartisan bill through the Senate floor with her then ranking member Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.). However, her new partner, Sen. Thad Cochran (R., Miss.) opposed the farm bill last year along with his southern colleagues because of treatment of southern commodities including cotton and rice.
At the summit, Sen. Mark Pryor (D., Ark.) said he's certain differences can be resolved in the commodity title of the farm bill to bring a bill to the floor while still addressing southerners' needs.
"One of the things we need to recognize that agriculture is very different from one region to another," Pryor said. "I realize I'm not going to get everything I want. But let's all work together and just do it."
Former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman keynoted the summit and shared that after decades of low prices and farm programs based on low prices, he predicted those days are over. "That doesn't mean we'll have heaven on earth," he said, but it will offer stability to farmers as well as rural communities and businesses.
A consistent theme of Senate members on the featured panels noted the importance of implementing a strong farm bill. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) said one of the disappointments of the farm bill extension was that it defunded many farm programs. For rural America this could mean less funds for important programs, but the Ag Committee is committed to trying to still contribute to reducing the debt, but also keep a majority of last year's bill as the foundation.
Klobuchar also stated last year Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) pulled of bipartisanship on the highway bill and expects the same to happen this year on waterways funding. She said she is "feeling pretty good" that the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) will move forward in the Senate.