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· Farm Bill Passes House, Set for the Senate
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Farm Bill Passes House, Set for the Senate
The U.S. House passed and sent the Senate a much-delayed bill to set agricultural policy for five years, as a coalition of rural Republicans and urban Democrats overcame objections about farm subsidies and food-stamp cuts. The Republican-led House voted 251-166 for the farm bill, which would cost $956.4 billion over a decade. Senators predicted passage in their chamber.
The plan, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will cut spending by $16.6 billion over 10 years from current levels, reflects the clout of rural and urban allies who kept farm subsidies and nutrition programs together. Supporters said the bipartisan bill showed differences can be bridged. President Barack Obama was pleased by progress on the bill and would sign into law the version passed by the House.
The legislation governing U.S. Department of Agriculture programs emerged after more than two years of debate, with some lawmakers seeking to use the measure to curb spending and end subsidy programs. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yesterday predicted the plan, a compromise between competing versions passed by the two chambers, will pass the Senate, which could take up the measure as soon as this week.
The bill governs farm subsidies, which encourages planting of soybeans, cotton and other crops by lowering costs for commodity processors including Bunge Ltd.
The legislation would cut food-stamp spending by $8.6 billion over 10 years, though additions to other programs bring nutrition-aid cuts down to $8 billion -- one-fifth of the $40 billion sought by Republicans and fought by Democrats and food retailers. The annual reduction would equal about 1 percent of the program’s total spending of a record $79.6 billion in the year that ended Sept. 30. Total savings would be $23 billion over 10 years after automatic cuts in all federal spending tied to an earlier budget deal are included.
The conference report eliminated the 15-year term limit on guaranteed loans and the accompanying graduation requirements, and exempt micro loans from direct term limits.
Crop-growers facing loss of $50 billion in subsidies retained about two-thirds of it through other aid. Conservation initiatives would lose $6 billion, largely through consolidation of existing programs. Crop insurers that paid out $17 billion after the severe 2012 were largely unscathed.
The bill ends the possibility, for at least five years, of U.S. farm policies reverting to a 1949 law that would potentially double milk prices.