U.S. Senate Passes 2013 Farm Bill; Focus Now Moves to HouseMon, 10 Jun 2013 18:16:48 CDT
The Senate passed the 2013 Farm Bill Monday evening on a vote of 66 to 27. The $955 billion-dollar measure is 1,150 pages long and could affect U.S. farm and food policy for the next 50 years.
Among other remarks, Senator Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee said, "This farm bill is the product of two years of hard work by a long list of talented people. And, as we vote today, we support 16 million people that depend on agriculture for their jobs. We are providing $24 billion in deficit reduction on a bipartisan basis. We are providing policies that will conserve our land and our water resources for generations to come." (You can hear more from Senator Stabenow and from Republican Senator Thad Cochran by clicking on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story.)
The largest part of the bill is the food stamps and nutrition title which will cost $760.5 billion dollars over the next 10 years. The Senate bill changes rules governing eligibility and cuts spending by $3.9 billion compared to what would be spent if funding stayed at this year's level.
Probably the biggest change in the bill is the reduction of direct payments in the commodity programs. The cuts amount to $17.44 billion over the next ten years. The bill will spend $41.3 billion on a variety of programs to protect farmers from sharp fluctuations in price. The program applies to corn, cotton, dairy, peanut, rice, soybean, and wheat producers.
One of the most contentious sections of the bill is the crop insurance title. The federal government currently pays about $7 billion subsidizing premiums. Under the bill that passed Monday, the government would also spend an additional $5 billion per year covering the deductibles farmers pay when they have a covered loss. Proponents say this was to help cushion the loss of direct payments.
The focus for passage of a final bill now moves to the U.S. House. It appears House members will take up the bill next week. The House bill has passed out of committee. If the bill passes in full House, there are numerous differences between the House and Senate versions that would have to be dealt with in conference committee.
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