On Tuesday afternoon, the Senate passed a new farm bill on a 68 to 32 vote. To become law, the legislation now only needs President Obama’s pen stroke.
The Senate passage follows last week’s House approval of the legislation on a final tally of 251 to 166.
“This is not your father’s farm bill,” said Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “It’s a new direction for American agriculture policy. Major reforms will be implemented and direct payments will finally come to an end. The bill supports the transition Americans are already making to a healthier, more locally based food system. This is also one of the largest investments in land and water conservation we’ve made in many years.
“And we were able to protect food assistance for families in need of support, while finding savings solely by focusing on fraud and misuse.
“This bill truly touches every American -- from the food we eat, to the air we breathe and the water we drink.”
Following Senate approval, Stabenow’s House counterpart, Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas, said “I am pleased the Senate passed the conference report and put us another step closer to enacting a new farm bill. I commend Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member (Mississippi Sen. Thad) Cochran on their efforts throughout this process. We worked together to give certainty and sound policy to our agricultural producers; deliver taxpayers billions of dollars in savings; and provide consumers the affordable and reliable food supply they have grown accustomed to.”
The $1 trillion bill does away with direct payments to producers while increasing crop insurance backing. The legislation will allow producers the choice between a revenue program covering price and yield losses and a price support program that would allow additional insurance coverage under a Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO).
Shortly prior to the Senate vote, Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor spoke on the floor in favor of the bill. “I’m happy to report that finally this bill overcame the partisan gridlock we’ve seen here in Washington. Last year, the House blew up this bill on a kind of ‘my way or the highway’ politics. I thought that was very unfortunate. But here we are today with a bipartisan farm bill, one that got a huge vote in the House. I hope it gets a huge vote in the Senate.”
Pryor continued: “This bill is important to the nation’s economy and future. Agriculture is something we do better than anyone else in the world. … No one does agriculture better. Our farmers, producers, agribusinesses do incredible work. We’re literally the envy of the world.”
Among advocacy groups reacting to the Senate vote:
- The American Soybean Association.
“We are relieved and pleased to see the farm bill cross the finish line this afternoon,” said Ray Gaesser, ASA president and Iowa farmer. “Today’s vote is the culmination of years of advocacy by ASA and other farm groups on behalf of policies that help our individual crops and our collective industry move forward. We’ve invested a great deal of time and energy in this bill, and the final product represents a true compromise that will benefit many crops, regions and aspects of American agriculture…
“Last week’s vote in the House and today’s vote in the Senate -- both accomplished in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion -- show that this bill is important not only to farmers and rural Americans, but also to our urban and suburban neighbors and business leaders in communities nationwide. We are grateful for the perseverance of the agriculture leadership in Congress, and we call on President Obama to sign the bill into law without delay.”
- National Farmers Union.
“Family farmers and ranchers have always been willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work that is needed to feed, fuel and clothe our nation and our world,” said Roger Johnson, NFU president. “It is only fitting that this legislation inspired Congress to do the hard work necessary to come together and pass a comprehensive, bipartisan five-year farm bill that enacts meaningful reforms and provides an effective safety net for farmers and needy Americans alike…
“One of the best ways that President Obama could expand opportunities for working families, including the 16 million Americans employed in the agriculture industry, would be to sign the single piece of legislation that benefits every sector of our economy.”
- The Agriculture Council of Arkansas.
“This legislation, while not perfect, represents a commitment to American agriculture and food security. It provides farmers with the certainty they need to plan for the upcoming crop year and future crop years so they may continue to produce a safe, abundant and affordable supply of food and fiber. It also supports rural communities, businesses, and jobs in Arkansas.”
The council – while pointing out agriculture provides 260,000 jobs and $17 billion to the state -- singled out Sen. Pryor as deserving “a great deal of credit from his position as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee. He will continue to play an important role in implementation of the (farm bill) when it becomes law.”
- American Farmland Trust.
“The bill will provide a much-needed safety net to help family farmers and all Americans who depend on farms for the fresh, healthy food we eat.
“Because of our network of activists and supporters, this bill will protect more farmland, help family farmers thrive on their land, and help promote the adoption of sound farming practices.
“Further, major reform in the bill will help improve soil and wetland protections, which will literally keep billions of tons of soil out of our rivers, lakes and streams.”
- The National Cotton Council.
“This measure is fiscally responsible, will help our nation’s farmers manage risk, and provide them with stability so they can continue providing Americans with safe, abundant and affordable food and fiber,” said Jimmy Dodson, NCC Chairman and south Texas producer. “Without a doubt, a strong production agriculture sector is essential to our nation’s security and economic well-being.”
An NCC release said the new farm bill provides “a new crop insurance product tailored to cotton production and the inclusion of a transition program for the 2014 crop year as enactment comes too late for USDA and the private sector to offer the new insurance product until 2015. … These provisions also are an important step in achieving a final resolution of the long-standing Brazil World Trade Organization case.”
- National Corn Farmers Association.
“We’re happy to see the farm bill pass the Senate and are looking forward to seeing it signed and implemented,” said Martin Barbre, NCGA President. “It was a long time coming for a bill so important for promoting stability in farm policy while saving taxpayers money and feeding the hungry. While it’s not perfect, we’re pleased to see the bill contains many provisions we’ve been working hard for over the years.”