Senate Sends Farm Bill to President Obama
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. returns to his Capitol Hill office in Washington, Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, after speaking on the floor as the Farm Bill is considered. (Photo courtesy of KPHO.)
Congress has given its final approval to a sweeping five-year farm bill that provides food for the needy and subsidies for farmers.
Ending years of political battles, the Senate on Tuesday sent the measure to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it. The Senate passed the bill 68-32.
The bill provides a financial cushion for farmers who face unpredictable weather and market conditions. But the bulk of its nearly $100 billion-a-year cost is for the food stamp program, which aids 1 in 7 Americans.
House Republicans had hoped to trim the bill’s costs, pointing to a booming agriculture sector in recent years and saying the now $80 billion-a-year food stamp program has spiraled out of control. Partisan disagreements stalled the bill for more than two years, but conservatives were eventually outnumbered as the Democratic Senate, the White House and a still-powerful bipartisan coalition of farm-state lawmakers pushed to get the bill done.
The final compromise bill would get rid of controversial subsidies known as direct payments, which are paid to farmers whether they farm or not. But most of that program’s $4.5 billion annual cost was redirected into new, more politically defensible subsidies that would kick in when a farmer has losses. The food stamp program was cut about 1 percent; the House had pushed for five times that much.
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