passes long-overdue farm bill, sends to Obama
Send a link to a friend
[February 05, 2014]
By Eric Beech
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The
U.S. Senate gave final congressional approval on Tuesday to a farm
bill, costing an estimated $956 billion over a decade, that trims
food stamps for the poor, expands federal crop insurance and ends
direct payments to farmers, and sent it to President Barack Obama
for his expected signature.
The Senate voted 68-32, with 44 Democrats joining 22 Republicans
and two independents to pass the sweeping bill, which is more
than a year overdue. Congressional negotiations bogged down
repeatedly on a host of issues, from the size of cuts to the
food stamp program to best to provide income supports to dairy
"This was hard fought. It was as complex an effort as I have
ever seen and I have been on the Agriculture Committee for close
to 40 years," Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont said.
Last week the House of Representatives passed the legislation by
a wide margin.
The White House has said Obama would sign the bill, which
affects about 16 million jobs in the country's agricultural
sector and can have an impact on the business landscape for
major agricultural companies.
"The farm bill isn't perfect — but on the whole, it will make a
positive difference not only for the rural economies that grow
America's food, but for our nation," Obama said in statement.
The Congressional Budget Office says the legislation will save
$16.6 billion over 10 years compared to current funding. Using a
different scoring, congressional leaders put the savings at $23
About $8 billion in savings over 10 years comes from cuts to the
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as
food stamps, which accounts for nearly 80 percent of the bill's
spending. The program provides funds to about 47 million
low-income people to buy food.
The food stamp cut was well below the $40 billion reduction
advocated by the Republican-led House, but still double the
amount originally supported by the Democratic-run Senate.
Conservative pressure groups Heritage Action and Club for Growth
said the bill was too expensive and had urged a "no" vote. The
groups said they would include the results in their scorecards
of members' voting records for 2014.
[to top of second column]
Liberal lawmakers and advocates for the poor said the food
stamp reduction was too steep at time of relatively high
"Any funding reduction to this program ... will make it more
difficult for some of the most vulnerable Americans, including
seniors and low-income families with children, to afford a
healthy diet," said American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown.
The legislation ends so-called direct payment subsidies, which
for years have been doled out to farmers and landowners — to the
tune of some $5 billion a year — regardless of whether there is
a need for support and whether they actually grew crops or
Instead, agriculture insurance programs would be expanded to
help producers manage risk. The bill also would establish
permanent disaster assistance for livestock producers.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack termed the bill
"important to the entire nation" and a way to cement the
progress made in rural America over the past five years, during
which time farm income has reached record highs.
"The potential of new products, treatments and discoveries will
be strengthened through new agricultural research. Renewed
conservation efforts will protect our fields, forests and waters
creating new tourism options," Vilsack said.
(Reporting by Eric Beech; editing by
Sandra Maler, Ros Krasny and David Gregorio)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.