Senate approves farm bill
The U.S. Senate passed the farm bill Tuesday by a vote of 68-32, sending it to the president’s desk and ending years of political wrangling.
The legislation is expected to become law, as President Obama previously indicated he would sign the measure. The House passed it Jan. 29.
The new farm bill makes cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly called food stamps. It also does away with direct payments subsidies, making crop insurance the bedrock of the federal farm safety net.
Direct payments to farmers – fixed government payments that don’t take crop performance or planting into account – were controversial. They cost about $4.5 billion annually, and were sometimes referred to derisively as “welfare for farmers.” The new farm bill would channel most of that money toward expanding the government-subsidized crop insurance program.
Cuts to the SNAP budget proved the most divisive element of drafting a new farm bill. House Republicans had wanted $40 billion in cuts over ten years. Senate Democrats advocated for $4 billion. The compromise legislation drawn up by the conference committee charged with negotiating the differences between House and Senate bills includes cuts to the program’s budget of about $8 billion over ten years.
The farm bill also makes significant changes to conservation policy, dairy policy and includes expanded safety net programs for livestock industries.