Senators Monday addressed one more amendment on the 2013 Farm Bill just before officially passing the legislation with a bipartisan vote of 66-27.
Senators have been considering the bill since May 21. Though more than 200 amendments were expected, Senators actually voted on fewer than 15.
The final amendment to reach the floor was from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to establish a pilot program for high-speed internet service in rural areas. It has been pending since the first week of Farm Bill discussion. It passed 48-38.
Floor comments prior to vote indicated that several Senators are chomping at the bit to get the bill moving, as if the move to invoke cloture from Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., last week didn't make that loud and clear.
The high-profile immigration reform legislation, which also includes agricultural provisions, is set for consideration by the whole Senate now that the Farm Bill is off the table.
But even with immigration legislation knocking on the door, there was still some concern that the Senate couldn't get the Farm Bill back on its feet after a lull in discussion due to the vast number of amendments that had not been considered prior to cloture. Some even expected a manager's amendment – which could have been a collection of less-controversial amendments – to come forward, though one never surfaced.
"The Senate has gotten it back together," Sen. Amy Klobuchar said just ahead of Senate passage. The Minnesota Democrat said the bill should be supported, noting the planning implications it has for producers.
Another priority, she said, going along with previous comments from other Senators: "I would like to get this thing out of the House by the time we head into August."
And now, with the Senate moving on and the House likely to begin discussion on their version of the bill next week, producers are inching just a bit closer each day to a conferenced bill and the President's signature – though if last year is any indication, it may not come easily.
Overall, the Senate-passed bill includes a projected $24 billion in cuts from the federal deficit over ten years, though the Congressional Budget Office estimated $18 billion based on Chairwoman Stabenow's draft legislation evaluated in May.
"The Senate today voted to support 16 million American jobs, to save taxpayers billions and to implement the most significant reforms to agriculture programs in decades," Chairwoman Stabenow said in a press statement. "This bill proves that by working across party lines, we can save taxpayer money and create smart policies that lay the foundation for a stronger economy."
"I look forward to continuing to work in a collaborative and bipartisan way to see that this reform bill is signed into law. There can be no more kicking the can down the road—it’s time for Congress to finish its work on the Farm Bill," she continued.
Farm groups react
Farm groups and legislators reiterated the importance of the bill moving on to the second "phase" – House consideration – later this month.
House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., commended Sens. Stabenow and Cochran on their leadership in the Senate, and said he was optimistic the House will be able to consider their farm bill next week.
"It's going to be difficult but if everything stays on track, I believe it's possible to get a bill to the President before the August recess, finally providing some certainty for our farmers, ranchers and consumers," Peterson estimated.
Farm groups also highlighted the work of the Senate, but noted the differences between the Senate-passed bill and the House Ag Committee-passed bill will require time and attention for conference.
"This legislation is long overdue and our work is still not done," said National Corn Growers Association President Pam Johnson. "Our focus now turns to the House of Representatives with hopes that they schedule floor time to consider the legislation as soon as possible. We look forward to continuing to partner with agriculture advocates to pass a new common-sense, reform-minded farm bill."
Click the links below for a recap of events leading up to Monday's passage of the Farm Bill:
Vote Expected on Senate Farm Bill Monday
Senate Ends Debate On Farm Bill
Means to An End for Senate Farm Bill?
It's Back to Work on the Farm Bill
Senate Farm Bill Debate Marches On
Sugar Policy Dominates Farm Bill Discussion
Sugar Policy, SNAP Key Points of Farm Bill Debate Day Two
Senate Farm Bill Headed To Floor
Senate Ag Committee To Begin Farm Bill Mark Up