The Senate approved the farm bill by a vote of 68-32 Feb. 4. The measure passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week. Goes to President Obama for final hurdle.
More than three-fourths of farm bill spending (79.1 percent) goes to nutrition programs like food stamps. Crop insurance accounts for 9.4 percent; conservation is 6 percent; and traditional farm programs make up just 4.6 percent.
The five-year farm bill cuts government spending by $23 billion over the next 10 years, including $8.6 billion from food stamps. It also does away with direct payments to row crop farmers, while placing greater emphasis on crop insurance.
"The farm bill is good news for Alabama agriculture and American taxpayers," said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell.  "Since 2012, farmers operated under temporary farm policy with no assurance of what programs would be available in the future for conservation, crop insurance or weather and market disasters. Today's vote clears the way for the president to sign a farm bill that cuts spending while revamping farm programs."
The bill includes a choice between a revenue program that covers both price and yield losses with county and farm level options, and a price support program which allows the optional purchase of insurance coverage under a Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO). The bill also eliminates direct payments while maintaining decoupled farm support programs that will minimize the possibility of planting and production distortions that could trigger new challenges from the World Trade Organization.
"This measure is fiscally responsible, will help our nation's farmers manage risk, and provide them with stability so they can continue providing Americans with safe, abundant and affordable food and fiber. Without a doubt, a strong production agriculture sector is essential to our nation's security and economic well-being,” said Jimmy Dodson, chairman of the National Cotton Council, in a statement.
Dodson, a South Texas cotton producer, said this five-year farm bill includes provisions important to the U.S. cotton industry's viability. That includes authorization of a new crop insurance product tailored to cotton production and the inclusion of a transition program for the 2014 crop year as enactment comes too late for USDA and the private sector to offer the new insurance product until 2015. He said these provisions also are an important step in achieving a final resolution of the long-standing Brazil World Trade Organization case.
Dodson reiterated industry concerns over inclusion of instructions to the Secretary to propose changes in the management and labor criteria used to determine eligibility for commodity programs, which begins in 2015, and the further reduction in the Adjusted Gross Income eligibility test, effective in 2014. He noted the re-imposition of limitations on marketing loan benefits could disrupt orderly marketing in times of low prices.
“From day one, soybean farmers have been invested in passing a bill that provides comprehensive risk management while avoiding potential market distortions,” said Ray Gaesser, American Soybean Association president. “We are confident that this bill accomplishes that, and we are very thankful to Chairwoman Stabenow, Chairman Lucas and Ranking Members Cochran and Peterson for their relentless persistence in driving this process forward and bringing the bill to the best possible conclusion.”
“It was a long time coming for a bill so important for promoting stability in farm policy while saving taxpayers money and feeding the hungry. While it’s not perfect, we’re pleased to see the bill contains many provisions we’ve been working hard for over the years,” said Martin Barbre, president of the National Corn Growers Association
“Today’s vote is great news for specialty crop agriculture, but it’s even better news for consumers,” said Mike Stuart, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association president. “It ensures that Americans will continue to have access to a plentiful supply of nutritious fruits and vegetables. This unprecedented investment in specialty crop agriculture shows that Congress understands the vital role we play in the U.S. economy and in public health.”