Chambliss, Isakson back Farm Bill

The Farm Bill’s two-year congressional odyssey ended Tuesday with easy Senate passage and the support of Georgia’s Republican senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson.

The $956 billion measure combines farm subsidies with nutrition assistance and conservation programs. Chambliss was a member of the conference committee that hammered out differences between the House and Senate versions. In all, the end result saves $16.6 billion against deficits in the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office, which Chambliss touted in a floor speech praising the bill.

“I believe the bill before us achieves the promise of reform while tackling the single largest domestic issue facing our country: the debt and deficit,” Chambliss said.

Georgia’s retiring senior senator also pushed for protections for cotton farmers, whose subsidy program was upended amid a trade dispute with Brazil.

“More than any other part of this bill, the upland cotton program represents fundamental reform,” Chambliss said.

The bill took some heat from conservatives for cutting only $800 million per year from a food stamp program that has reached $80 billion per year. Chambliss and Isakson had supported deeper cuts, but said on balance the bill is worthy of support.

“This bipartisan farm bill is very important to Georgia agriculture, which is our state’s number one industry,” Isakson said in a statement. “The bill contains food stamp reforms, conservation provisions, forestry provisions and safety nets that will ensure that we continue meeting the needs of farmers in Georgia and the Southeast.”

The bill now awaits President Barack Obama’s expected signature.