WASHINGTON – The US Senate passed the Farm Bill by a 64-35 vote. The more than $400 billion bill includes big cuts in farm subsidy and land conservation spending, but protects food stamp beneficiaries.
The bill, which will cost more than $498 billion, would save $23.6 billion through cuts in farm subsidies over 10 years. The Farm Bill also expands a crop insurance program, which has been criticized as costly and too generous to farmers and private insurance companies, according to Reuters. Under the new legislation, four farm commodity subsidies have been replaced by one; conservation programs have been consolidated and several sources of abuse in food stamps have been eliminated.
Agriculture stakeholders praised the Senate action. But time is running out on the legislative calendar for the US House to take up the bill, and election year pressures may cause legislators to delay addressing the bill until 2013, according to news reports. US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged quick action to pass the Farm Bill.
“As the legislative process moves forward, the Administration will continue to seek policy solutions and savings consistent with the President’s budget, and we are hopeful that the House of Representatives will produce a bill with those same goals in mind,” Vilsack said. “Swift action is needed so that American farmers and ranchers and our rural communities have the certainty they need to continue strengthening the rural and national economy."
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association lauded the Senate’s passage, saying the bill incorporated all the association’s priorities.
“We support this legislation and will continue working with the House to ensure amendments that would interject the federal government into production agriculture are left out of the legislation or soundly defeated,” said Colin Woodall, NCBA vice president of Government Affairs. “As we focus our efforts on working with the House Committee on Agriculture to ensure another version of this legislation that is positive for cattlemen, I must stress the importance of family farmers and ranchers being engaged in this process.”