Senate Expected to Pass Massive Farm Bill
The Senate is moving ahead to pass a massive farm bill Tuesday. The House approved the measure last week.
The bill provides nearly $100 billion a year in subsidies and other aid for farmers who face unpredictable weather and market conditions, while also continuing to subsidize services for rural residents and communities who have hit hard times in recent years.
The majority of the bill's cost is food stamps, which supplement meal costs for 1 in 7 Americans.
House Republicans had hoped to trim the bill's costs, pointing to a booming agriculture sector in recent years and saying the now $80 billion-a-year food stamp program has spiraled out of control.
Partisan disagreements stalled the bill for more than two years, but conservatives were eventually outnumbered as the Democratic Senate, the White House, and a still-powerful bipartisan coalition of farm-state lawmakers pushed to get the bill done.
The final compromise bill would get rid of controversial subsidies known as direct payments, which are paid to farmers whether they farm or not.
But most of that program's $4.5 billion annual cost was redirected into new, more politically defensible subsidies that would kick in when a farmer has losses. The food stamp program was cut about 1 percent; the House had pushed for five times that much.
The measure also has a strict cap on the overall amount of money an individual farmer can receive - $125,000 in a year, when some programs were previously unrestricted.
Although the bill would save more than $1.65 billion annually, critics say under the new insurance-style programs, those savings could disappear if the weather or the market don't cooperate.