Senate Approves 2014 Farm Bill

Bill now moves to President's desk as final chapter of nearly three-year ordeal comes to a close

Published on: Feb 4, 2014

Wrapping up discussion on a policy that has taken nearly three years to create and refine, the Senate on Tuesday voted 68-32 in favor of the 2014 Farm Bill.

In a turn away from the bill's recent track record that has included some political foot-dragging, it coasted through the House on a 251-166 vote on Jan. 29, well on its way to a 72-22 cloture vote in the Senate Monday and final vote.

The $956 billion bill, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will save about $16 billion over the next 10 years, will now move to the President's desk. He is expected to sign the measure.

Bill now moves to Presidents desk as final chapter of nearly three-year ordeal comes to a close
Bill now moves to President's desk as final chapter of nearly three-year ordeal comes to a close

"After 491 days without a farm bill, all constituents need us to get this done," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "Vote yes on this farm bill. Give our farmers, ranchers and the rest of the 16 million people who work in agriculture the farm bill they deserve."

The bill comes as a collective sigh of relief for most agriculture groups, which viewed the bill as compromise.

Notably, the bill eliminates controversial direct payments and reinvests its savings into various safety net programs paid out based on farmers' losses. It also includes a livestock disaster program, changes to conservation programs and advancements for organic and specialty crops.

"This really was an effort in good faith," Stabenow said, thanking House Ag Committee counterparts Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Collin Peterson, D-Minn., for their assistance in negotiations.

There was significant bipartisan support on the final bill, though a concern for some legislators was the $8 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and alteration of the "heat and eat" provision, which allowed states to provide citizens with as little as $1 in heating assistance to qualify them for SNAP.

The cuts, which were a far cry from the $40 billion originally proposed in the House, come mainly from changes that address misuse, Stabenow said Monday.

Despite ag groups' weighty support, two groups – the National Cattlemen's Association and the National Pork Producers Council – opposed the bill because it failed to eliminate Country of Origin Labeling provisions. Those provisions, they say, have a negative effect on trade with both Canada and Mexico, and will introduce challenges from the World Trade Organization.

Others said the bill's cuts did not go far enough. Some Senators vowed to vote against the bill, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who was unhappy that his changes to payment limits were not contained in the final conference report.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said the Price Loss Coverage program repeats a "classic government subsidy mistake" by setting high fixed target prices. He also said SNAP reforms were not enough, and continued regulatory burdens were not addressed in the bill.