The farm bill continues to advance as the U.S. Senate approved the legislation today with a landslide 68-32 vote.
The conference report on H.R. 2642, the Agriculture Act of 2014, was approved by the House on Jan. 29. It now awaits President Barack Obama's signature. The president is expected to sign it.
Members of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives lauded the bill as an example of bipartisanship.
"Many people said this would never happen in this environment, but Congress has come together to pass a major bipartisan jobs bill. Congress has also passed a major reform and deficit reduction bill. Both bills are the 2014 farm bill," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chairwoman of the Senate Ag Committee. "This effort proves that by working across party lines, we can save taxpayer money and create smart policies that lay the foundation for a stronger economy."
"We worked together to give certainty and sound policy to our agricultural producers; deliver taxpayers billions of dollars in savings; and provide consumers the affordable and reliable food supply they have grown accustomed to," said House Ag Committee Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.).
The legislation, which still awaits final passage by the White House, aims to reform agriculture programs and reduce the federal deficit. The bill:
- Ends the direct payments to farmers while strengthening risk-management tools, particularly crop insurance.
- Repeals nearly 100 outdated programs and consolidates duplicative ones.
- Creates a permanent livestock disaster assistance program.
- Strengthens conservation efforts.
- Maintains food assistance for families while addressing fraud and misuse in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
"This bill truly touches every American, from the food we eat, to the air we breathe and the water we drink," Stabenow said.
Industry groups, for the most part, applauded the Senate's vote.
"We’re happy to see the farm bill pass the Senate and are looking forward to seeing it signed and implemented," said National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre. "While it’s not perfect, we’re pleased to see the bill contains many provisions we’ve been working hard for over the years."
"America’s farmers are core to the innovation that’s driven down our dependence on foreign oil, and this policy will help keep them doing it," said Adam Monroe, Novozymes regional president of the Americas. "There’s already enough concern about energy policy in America with EPA’s proposed revisions to the Renewable Fuel Standard. It’s a powerful sign to see policy certainty surrounding the energy programs in the farm bill."