Senators approved a half-trillion farm bill package on a vote of 66 to 27 on Monday evening. The legislation includes significant cuts in direct subsidies to farmers and a roughly $4 billion cut in the $80 billion federal food stamp program over the next decade.
Officially introduced as the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, the measure includes funds for training new farmers, promotes bio-manufacturing jobs to replace oil-based products and increases the ability for farmers to sell what they grow in their local markets.
“I don’t think you can have an economy unless you make things and grow things. This bill is about growing things,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee. “We are very proud of the work we have done on a bipartisan basis and we are anxious to work with the House to get the final product to the president’s desk.”
Senators passed a similar version of the farm legislation last year, but the House never held a vote on its version of the legislation, requiring both chambers to pass a one-year extension of existing policy.
Meanwhile, most of the nation’s leading farm groups praised the Senate’s approval of the farm bill. American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman says the legislation provides needed risk management tools and a viable economic safety net for America’s farmers and ranchers. Danny Murphy of the American Soybean Association adds that contains much-needed certainty to farmers facing a mounting force of weather- and market-related unknowns.
Stabenow said she expects that Congress will ultimately pass a Farm Bill this year. That chamber is expected to take up its version of the legislation next week.