Farm Bill Gets Senate Approval, Goes to President for Signature


After two years of dispute amongst Democrats and Republicans, Congress has approved a nearly $100 billion-a-year farm bill.

The Agricultural Act of 2014 easily passed the Senate with a 62-38 vote Tuesday and will be signed by President Barack Obama on Friday.

Included in the bill is subsidies for farmers from nearly every region -- from Southern peanut growers to Midwest corn farmers and the dairy industry around the country. The support is designed to provide a financial cushion in an unpredictable industry.

And it isn't just farmers who stand to benefit from the bill's passage. There's also help for rural towns, grocery stores in low-income areas and, most notably, the nation's 47 million food stamp recipients.

But the bulk of the bill's funding is for the food stamp program, which was cut by about 1 percent.

While many are applauding the long-awaited passage of the farm bill, some aren't as pleased.

Sen. John McCain calls the measure a "monstrosity" filled with what he calls "special interest pet projects."

The Center for Rural Affairs, located in Lyons, was hoping this particular wouldn't be approved by Senate leaders.

"Sadly, the back-room deal struck in Conference Committee rejects the bipartisan farm subsidy reform that was included in the farm bills passed in both the House and Senate," said Traci Bruckner, senior policy associate. "And the deal will result in virtually unlimited farm program payments continuing to inure to the nation's largest and wealthiest mega-farms."

Other organizations are anxiously awaiting the president's signature. The American Soybean Association thanked Congress for the bill and urged Obama to sign the bill quickly.

"We are relieved and pleased to see the farm bill cross the finish line this afternoon," said ASA President and Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser. "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."

"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," added Gaesser.

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns supported the bill, saying a consensus between parties has "been a long time in the making."

He said, "I would have preferred stronger payment limits and a movement away from target prices, but progress was made on those fronts. Progress was also made to reform and streamline conservation programs, something I backed as secretary, and to end direct payments that paid farmers no matter what."

Johanns added this bill is a compromise with no one getting everything they were looking for, but had enough to warrant support.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack had this to say about the passage of the farm bill:

"Today's action will allow the proud men and women who feed millions around the world to invest confidently in the future. Our communities will have additional support to attract new economic opportunity and create jobs. During difficult times, children, working families, seniors and people with disabilities will have access to nutritious food. The potential of new products, treatments and discoveries will be strengthened through new agricultural research. Renewed conservation efforts will protect our fields, forests and waters creating new tourism options. This legislation is important to the entire nation.

"Building on the historic economic gains in rural America over the past 5 years, this bill will accomplish those goals while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. While no legislation is perfect, this bill is a strong investment in American agriculture and supports the continued global leadership of our farmers and ranchers."