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Farm Bill Update: Bipartisan Effort Ticks Through Amendments

On Tuesday, the Senate began the process of voting on a list of 73 amendments to the Food, Agriculture and Jobs Act of 2012.

Black and white picture of a hand making a

Photo: striatic (Flickr)

A principle aim of the farm bill is to cut the federal deficit.

Bipartisan Cooperation

Despite initial challenges to getting the 2012 farm bill off the ground, the Senate has recently shown a remarkable degree of collaboration.

“It’s a different Senate than it was three months ago,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY). “People are working together.”

Subsidies Up, Down

An amendment from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) that will limit some commodities subsidies — not including crop insurance — to $75,000 per farmer or $150,000 per married couple was overwhelmingly approved.

Boasting even greater consensus was the rejection of an amendment from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), which would have limited all manner of subsidies to individuals earning more than $250,000 a year.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said that the underlying bill already provides for such limits, but that Sen. Paul’s amendments would have a negative impact on conservation subsidies.

Young Farmers, Green Farmers

An amendment from Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), which restores a program for minority and beginning farmers, was narrowly approved.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) sponsored an amendment preserving a program that supports farmers in California’s heavily-polluted Central Valley in their efforts to upgrade diesel tractor engines to more efficient models.

SNAP Gives and Takes

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) proposed an amendment changing eligibility requirements for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps) benefits. His amendment was voted down.

A high-profile amendment from Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was also voted down. It sought to reverse proposed cuts to SNAP benefits and to compensate by decreasing subsidies to profitable crop insurance companies.

Ridiculous Riders

To the dismay of both Sen. Stabenow and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), several amendments having nothing to do with agriculture made the cut too.

These included an amendment from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that would require the Department of Defense to study the impact of $500 billion in spending cuts.

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Sarah Gordon

Sarah Gordon has been interested in food ethics since she was 15, learned about industrial slaughter, and launched into 10 years of vegetarianism. These days, she strives to be a conscientious omnivore. Now a PhD candidate in folklore, her research has caused her to spend a lot of time in the remote Canadian sub-arctic, where the lake trout (sustainably harvested) tastes amazing.

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