Lawmakers Push for Farm Bill Passage

Senate Debates Farm Bill
WASHINGTON, DC (WENY) -- Congress is a step closer to cementing the nation’s agriculture policies for the next five years.  The House Agriculture Committee approved its version of the Farm Bill last week with bipartisan support.  Now, Senate leaders are pushing for final passage. 

“I’m very proud of this Farm Bill.  I think it goes a long ways,” said Northern Tier Rep. Glenn Thompson, who sits on the House Agriculture Committee.  The bill he’s pushing eliminates three  programs Thompson says influenced dairy pricing, and it replaces them with a risk management tool called margin insurance. 

“I think that will help stabilize milk prices, and it’ll be good for our dairy farmers,” explained Thompson. 

The House Bill also cuts spending by $35 billion.  Almost half of that are cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.

“We eliminated some of the areas of abuse and misuse,” said Thompson.  “Anyone who’s truly in need of food stamps will get it.”

“Nobody should be getting help who’s ripping off the system.  But when somebody loses their job because the plant closes, and they pay taxes all their lives, and now they need some temporary help to put food on the table, I think that’s when the food program should be there,” explained Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who chairs the Senate Ag Committee.

The Senate’s bill, which passed in June, cuts spending by $23 billion, eliminates direct payments to farmers for crops they’re not growing, and strengthens crop insurance. 

“There are some differences that are significant.  But we can work those out in a final negotiation in a conference committee,” explained Stabenow. 

But before that happens, the full House needs to act.

“It’s absolutely critical that the House moves forward,” she said. 

Thompson hopes the House will vote on its version of the Farm Bill in the next few weeks before Congress leaves for August recess.  Then, both sides could work on final passage in September, as the current Farm Bill is set to expire on September 30.