Although it will need to go through many more channels before taking affect, the U.S. Senate has passed its version of the federal farm bill on Thursday. In essence, the legislation is a $500 billion spending package that cuts $32 billion in previous spending–including $4 billion in the food stamp program. The measure, which passed on a vote of 64-35, also eliminates direct payments and expands crop insurance for wider disaster coverage.
Some of the finalized amandments to the bill include funding rural job creation and economic development; reduces crop insurance subsidies to farms with a gross adjusted income greater than $750,000; requires conservation compliance in order to be eligible to buy crop insurance; and conducts reviews of the Class I railroads system, which some say has significantly raised the cost of transporting crop inputs and coal into the Upper Midwest.
The farm bill was authored by Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, who is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
“This Farm Bill is the most significant reform to farm programs in decades–it cuts spending, ends subsidies, improves accountability and strengthens healthy food systems,” Stabenow said. “This bill was developed through bipartisan collaboration, passed committee with broad bipartisan support, and we have now passed a bipartisan bill that supports 16 million American jobs. It is heartening to earn support from both sides on a major bill that cuts spending and helps create jobs. Passage of this bill shows that when people come together, Congress can still get big things done.”
Meanwhile, the bill also contains the Dairy Security Act which, replaces the dairy product price support program and milk income loss contract program with margin insurance.
The American Soybean Association applauded the bill, saying it would establish an effective risk management program for soybean producers that complements crop insurance, consolidate conservation programs, and have agriculture do its fair share to help address the nation’s fiscal situation by reducing government spending.
American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman says while no farm bill is perfect, he thinks ‘this bill was worthy of Senate approval.’
The specialty crop industry was very pleased to see some of its supported provisions more forward in the bill. Some of those items include increased block grant and research funding, as well as more money for the Plant Pest and Disease Program.
Meanwhile, the House Ag Committee has yet to put forth a farm bill proposal and is not expected to do so until after the July 4 recess. House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas says he hopes his colleagues are encouraged by the success of the Senate and said his committee will consider a balanced proposal that “saves taxpayers billions of dollars, recognizes the diversity of American agriculture, respects the risks producers face, and preserves the tools necessary for food production.”