Senate closes debate on new farm bill

The U.S. Senate voted 75-22 on June 6 to end debate on a five-year farm bill, clearing way for passage of the legislation possibly as early as June 10.

The bill would cut $24 billion from farm spending over 10 years, including a $4 billion reduction to food stamps. Final votes on the bill are likely to occur before the Senate addresses immigration reform.

More than 10 Republicans joined Democrats in advancing the bill. A similar farm bill passed last year on a 64-35 vote, but the House failed to take up its own farm bill.

Senate Republicans had been pushing amendments to lower the cost of crop insurance in the bill, as well as further cuts to food stamps.

The U.S. House is working on a rival, $940 billion farm bill that cuts spending by $39.7 billion over 10 years, with $20.5 billion of the cuts coming in food stamps. The House bill is expected to receive a floor vote later this month.

The Senate passed an amendment before the Memorial Day recess that reduces crop insurance subsidies by 15 percent for those making more than $750,000 per year. The House draft farm bill does not have such a limitation.

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, national coalition of more than 120 organizations representing growers of fruits, vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, nursery plants and other products, issued a statement praising the cloture vote in the Senate to move the farm bill forward for a final vote.

“The bipartisan vote sends a strong message that this legislation is vital and should be passed as soon as possible,” the statement read. “The bill addresses many priorities critical to the specialty crop industry, and includes programs supporting essential research, market promotion and nutrition, and continues the support of specialty crops that was established in the 2008 farm bill.

“The overwhelming support shown today also paves the way for the House of Representatives to move forward with their bill, an encouraging sign for moving both bills to final vote and conference, where any differences will be resolved.”

Originally posted Thursday, Jun. 6, 2013