Senate debate on farm bill begins

by Jay Sjerven
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WASHINGTON — The Senate on the afternoon of May 20 began consideration of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 (S.954). The bill was passed out to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry last week and aimed to replace the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008. That act expired in October 2012 but later was extended through the end of the current fiscal year as part of the budget agreement.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, chairwoman of the Senate agriculture committee, took to the Senate floor to introduce her committee’s farm bill. Sen. Stabenow said of the committee’s farm bill, “It’s a jobs bill. It’s a trade bill. It’s a conservation bill, and it’s a kitchen-table bill.”

Sen. Stabenow said the bill would reform farm programs by ending direct payments and other subsidies to producers and provide growers instead improved market-based risk management tools. The bill would make food assistance programs more effective by eliminating abuse and fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, she said. Altogether, the bill would reduce spending by $24 billion over 10 years.

The House version of the 2013 farm bill, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, was passed by the House Committee on Agriculture last week and may be considered by the full House during the summer, according to Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, chairman of the House agriculture committee, and Rep. Collin Peterson, ranking member of the committee.
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