Updated 5:37 p.m.:
The U.S. Senate passed the Farm Bill today with a vote of 68-32.
As expected, both Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana, and Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, voted in favor of the bill.
Both Senators praised the passage, which Donnelly says restores certainty for the Hoosier agricultural community.
The measure – containing nearly $1 trillion in spending comes after years of partisan fighting that’s seen nearly six years pass without a new farm bill.
The legislation spends $10 billion on crop insurance and rural development programs while cutting spending by more than $16 billion.
Donnelly says the farm bill is more free-market friendly because it eliminates direct payments to farmers in favor of putting money into crop insurance.
“Crop insurance has become the one thing that, when a farmer goes to the bank to get a loan to buy inputs or to buy seed, almost all the banks say, ‘Listen, do you have crop insurance?’” Donnelly says.
In a statement, Coats touted the inclusion of what’s called “farm flex,” which exempts fruit and vegetable growers from government restrictions on how much of a certain crop they can grow and allows them to better respond to market demands.
The bill now heads to President Obama, who is expected to sign it.
Both of Indiana’s U.S. Senators say they’ll vote for a new farm bill. Congress has been stalemated on a new five-year bill for the last year, but the House last week passed a bipartisan compromise which trims spending by $16 billion, half of those through reforms in the food-stamp program.
The bill ends direct payments to farmers while increasing funding for crop insurance. Republican Senator Dan Coats and Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly both call the bill “imperfect”, but Coats says it’s the first farm bill in years that actually reduces spending.
“This is the first farm bill in memory, I don’t know how far back you have to go, that actually save taxpayers money. The Congressional budget office says it’s going to save $16 billion,” Coats said.
The House approved the measure 251-166, with all Indiana‘s representatives supporting it except Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, and Marlin Stutzman, R-Fort Wayne. Senate passage will send the bill to President Obama for his signature.
Network Indiana contributed to this report.