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Farm bill passes senate, goes to President

POSTED February 4, 2014 11:12 p.m.

The nearly $1 trillion Farm Bill passed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday is headed to the desk of President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign the 959-page legislation on Friday.

With a passing vote of 68-32, the long-awaited Farm Bill is set to provide nearly $100 billion in annual spending over the next 10 years. And while farmers are anticipated to greatly benefit from the bill, as it provides expanded crop insurance by $7 billion over the next decade, others such as food stamps recipients are taking a loss.

“While no legislation is ever perfect, this farm bill will benefit California by making investments in specialty crops, conservation and research that are critical for our state’s farmers and rural communities,” said Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). “It is shameful that Republicans demanded cuts to nutrition assistance for America’s neediest families, but I applaud Senator Stabenow for working hard to protect the interests of children and families in this bill.”

As part of the five-year Farm Bill, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamps, will be cut by $800 million per year, about one percent of the program’s funding. Members of the House of Representatives voted in September to cut the food stamps program by $40 billion, nearly 10 times the amount the Senate proposed in early negotiations. In the end, the $8 billion cut is said to translate to roughly $90 less per month for food stamp recipients.

The bill also places new regulations on food stamp recipients, prohibiting lottery winners, convicted sex offenders and murderers from receiving the government funded support. New efforts to reduce fraud by retailers selling food stamps will begin, in addition to tracking food stamp trafficking and ensuring benefits are not sent to people who have passed away.

Setting five years of federal nutrition and farming policies throughout the nation, the Farm Bill covers regulations on how food is packaged and sold, as well as implementing changes to programs involving environmental regulations on farms, aid to dairy and sheep farmers, and the types of food provided to the nation’s food banks by the Agriculture Department.

Authorizing the end of direct payments to farmers, the bill will additionally expand the popular crop insurance program, creating a financial cushion for farmers facing unpredictable weather and market conditions.

A new revenue insurance subsidy program paying farmers in the event of “shallow losses,” or revenue losses incurred before their paid crop insurance kicks in, is set to begin sooner than expected, as some crop prices have dropped in recent months.

Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), who served on the conference committee negotiating the bipartisan bill, shared his support for the comprehensive legislation, noting the importance of Ag policy for farmers throughout the nation.

“From my experience as an almond farmer in the Central Valley, I know how crucial farm policy on the federal level is to ensuring that our agricultural community can feed the nation,” said Denham. “California is number one in the nation in agricultural revenue, and our farms produce nearly half of U.S. grown fruit, nuts and vegetables – making the farm bill especially crucial to Californians.”

Overall, the bill is said to cut roughly $16 billion in government spending over the next decade, while repealing or consolidating more than 100 programs administered by the USDA.

 

 

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