Senate sends farm bill to Obama



To approve the farm bill.

John Cornyn (R), N

Ted Cruz (R), N



To approve the farm bill.

Johnny Isakson (R), Y

Saxby Chambliss (R), Y



To approve the farm bill.

Sherrod Brown (D), Y

Rob Portman (R), Y



To approve the farm bill.

Bill Nelson (D), Y

Marco Rubio (R), N

Box for CMG Ohio only. Use the one below in other editions


Key facts about farm bill:

• Costs nearly $1 trillion during the next five years.

• Ends “direct payments,” a longstanding federal program that pays farmers subsidies based on the acres they own as opposed to how many acres they plant. Direct payments cost taxpayers as much as $4.5 billion annually.

• Expands crop insurance, which pays farmers for losses suffered through a variety of factors, such as drought or extreme cold. If the weather is mild, taxpayers could save money.

• Saves $8 billion during the next 10 years on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. About 1.8 million Ohioans receive a monthly average of $122 in food stamp benefits.

• Most of the food stamp savings are generated by new curbs on what is called “heat and eat’’ in which 17 states inflate benefits to recipients by including a heating bill on the application – even if the person does not pay a utility bill. Ohio is not a “heat-and-eat” state.

Cox Media Group Ohio Newspapers

Box for non-CMG Ohio papers


Major elements in the farm bill:

— A $400 million cut in food assistance.

— The end of so-called direct payments, government subsidies paid to farmers whether they farm or not.

— A new revenue insurance subsidy that would pay farmers in the event of losses incurred before their paid crop insurance kicks in.

— A separate subsidy program that would trigger payments when crop prices drop.

— Stricter limits on how much money an individual farmer can receive — $125,000 annually on all payments.

— An additional $570 million a year for government-subsidized crop insurance.

— A new dairy program that would do away with current price supports.

— A reworked subsidy for cotton growers and continuation of a sugar program that protects growers from foreign competition.

Associated Press

— A test program that would allow 10 states to grow industrial hemp for research.

— Authorization for the Christmas tree industry to create a promotion program through the Agriculture Department.


“This bill will result in less food on the table for children, seniors and veterans who deserve better from this Congress, while corporations continue to receive guaranteed federal handouts.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

“Given all the complexity and completion interest, I think they did an adequate job.”

Former congressman and Clinton administration agriculture secretary Dan Glickman

The Senate on Tuesday, as expected, gave final approval to a sweeping five-year farm bill that provides food for the needy and subsidies for farmers.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill, which received House approval last week, ending years of political battles.

The bill, approved 68-32, provides a financial cushion for farmers who face unpredictable weather and market conditions. But the bulk of its nearly $100 billion-a-year cost is for the food stamp program, which aids 1 in 7 Americans.

House Republicans had hoped to trim the bill’s costs, pointing to subsidies for an already booming agriculture sector 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 passed.

The final compromise bill would get rid of controversial subsidies known as direct payments, which farmers receive whether or not they till their acreage. 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.

Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said before the bill passed that she and her House counterpart, Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., had tried to craft a bill that would work for all regions of the country, “from traditional row crops, to specialty crops like fruits and vegetables, to livestock, to organics, to local food systems.”

Scattered throughout the bill those incentives — for example, a boost for crop insurance popular in the Midwest and higher subsidies for Southern rice and peanut farmers — helped the bill pass easily in the House last week, 251-166. House leaders who had objected to the legislation since 2011 softened their disapproval as they sought to put the long-stalled bill behind them.

Leaders in both parties also hoped to bolster rural candidates in this year’s midterm elections.

The final savings in the food stamp program, $800 million a year, would come from cracking down on some states that seek to boost individual food stamp benefits by giving people small amounts of federal heating assistance they don’t need. That heating assistance, sometimes as low as $1 per person, triggers higher benefits, and some critics see that practice as circumventing the law. The compromise bill would require states to give individual recipients at least $20 in heating assistance before a higher food stamp benefit could kick in.

Some Democrats still objected to the cuts, even though they are much less than what the House had sought. The Senate-passed farm bill had a $400 million annual cut to food stamps.

“This bill will result in less food on the table for children, seniors and veterans who deserve better from this Congress, while corporations continue to receive guaranteed federal handouts,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said. “I cannot vote for it.”

At the same time, some Republicans took to the Senate floor to say the bill doesn’t do enough to trim spending.

“It’s mind-boggling, the sum of money that’s spent on farm subsidies, duplicative nutrition and development assistance programs, and special interest pet projects,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Monday. “How are we supposed to restore the confidence of the American people with this monstrosity?”

McCain pointed to grants and subsidies for sheep marketing, sushi rice and the maple syrup industry.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a longtime member of the Agriculture Committee, said he would vote against the bill because the compromise does not include provisions he authored to reduce the number of people associated with one farm who can collect farm subsidies. Grassley has for years fought to lower subsidies to the wealthiest farmers.

The bill does have a stricter, $125,000 cap on the overall amount an individual farmer can receive. But the legislation otherwise continues a generous level of subsidies for farmers.

In place of the direct payments, farmers would now be able to choose between subsidies that pay out when revenue drops or when prices drop. Cotton and dairy supports were overhauled to similarly pay out when farmers have losses.

The bill would save around $1.65 billion annually overall. But critics said that under the new insurance-style programs, those savings could disappear if the weather or the market doesn’t cooperate.

Craig Cox of the Environmental Working Group, an organization that has fought for subsidy reform for several years, said replacing the direct payments with the new programs is simply a “bait and switch.”

“The potential for really big payoffs” is huge, he said.