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Senate farm bill debate resumes today

The Senate is scheduled to resume debate on the farm bill at 4 p.m. today, with votes scheduled at 5:30 p.m.

The debate will begin following two hours of morning business beginning at 2 p.m.

The first vote will be on an amendment (#987) sponsored by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., to require the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation to carry out research and development regarding a crop insurance program for alfalfa.

That will be followed by a vote on an amendment (#1079) sponsored by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., to increase the amount of international food aid money that may be used for local purchases from $40 million per year to $60 million.

The proposal appears to be a compromise on a food aid proposal from the Obama administration and some food aid groups to shift from a program that purchases U.S. commodities and ships them overseas to one that would buy food near the country experiencing food shortages and distribute it.

Johanns, a former Agriculture secretary, said at a recent Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing that he is sympathetic to the Obama administration proposal but that food aid needs the backing of American farm groups, which have maintained support for the current program.

A coalition of food aid groups including Catholic Relief Services, Oxfam, Bread for the World and CARE have announced support for the Coons-Johanns proposal. Ellen Levinson, executive director of the Alliance for Global Food Security which has defended U.S. commodity purchases, said her members are "OK" with the amendment.

The schedule issued by the Senate Democrats said the vote on the Coons-Johanns amendment may be by voice.

Although the Senate is expected to try to finish the farm bill this week so that immigration reform can be brought up next week, Senate Democratic and Republican leaders had not reached agreement late Friday on the number of amendments to be offered on the farm bill and how long the debates would be, The Hill reported early Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Heritage Foundation has begun a television campaign criticizing farm bill spending and targeting four House members House Agriculture Committee: Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., and Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., Politico reported.