The Senate has passed a five-year, half-trillion-dollar farm bill that cuts farm subsidies and land conservation spending by about $2 billion a year. But the measure largely protects sugar growers and some 46 million food stamp beneficiaries.
The 64-35 vote for passage defied the political odds. Many predicted that legislation this expensive and complicated would have little chance in an election year.
The bill eliminates direct payments to farmers regardless of whether they plant crops. That program, which costs about $5 billion a year, has lost support at a time of big federal deficits.
The legislation now goes to the GOP-led House, which is likely to seek deeper cuts in food stamps.
Nebraska's U.S. Senators offered their thoughts following the vote.
Senator Ben Nelson, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, released a statement today, saying:
"The 2012 Farm Bill ushers in a new era for Nebraska farmers and ranchers, and the agriculture industry that drives our economy. Its budget-minded reforms, and swapping of government subsidies for new crop insurance programs, will benefit Nebraska's more than 47,000 farms while strengthening the safety net for tough times. This milestone Farm Bill also brings stability and job security to tens of thousands of Nebraska agriculture workers, and paves the way for job growth in our state's agriculture sector. It does all that while reducing the federal deficit by $23 billion. The U.S. House should take notice of the Senate's strong bipartisan effort to further Nebraska agriculture, and pass its Farm Bill soon. Congress must set a new five-year course for American agriculture this year."
Senator Mike Johanns also released a statement, saying:
"This is a reform-minded, market-oriented farm bill that represents a positive step in our nation's ag policy. Given our daunting budget situation, it is appropriate this bill saves more than $23 billion - a step in the right direction in dealing with our debt – while helping to mitigate the risks producers face. I will continue to be involved as the farm bill advances through Congress and hopefully to the President's desk for his signature very soon."
Nebraska Agriculture Director Greg Ibach offered the following statement on passage of the bill:
"I am pleased Senators, after thoughtful deliberation, passed the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act. Their action today gives forward momentum to legislation that is critical to rural Nebraska. It is important for our farmers and ranchers to know, going into the next production season, the federal farm bill policies under which they will be operating."