WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate on Tuesday passed a farm bill that emerged from a conference committee two weeks ago, ending more than two years of gridlock over the omnibus piece of legislation.
Both of Vermont’s senators voted for the bill.
The House of Representatives OK’d the bill with bipartisan support last week. The 959-page, $956 billion bill will arrive on President Obama’s desk shortly. He has said he will sign the bill, which sets the nation’s farm and food policy for five years.
The passage ends a contentious debate over renewal of the 2008 farm bill, which was set to expire in 2012 but was extended until September 2013. After that law expired this past Oct. 1, Congress failed to pass an update, which cast the future of many agriculture and food supplement programs into doubt.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, who has presided over seven farm bills and served on the bipartisan conference committee, praised the bill’s passage.
“Vermont has a stake in every farm bill, and this farm bill again bears a firm Vermont imprint,” the Vermont Democrat said. “Its wide-ranging scope parallels Vermont’s interests and rural needs, in ways that are interlaced throughout Vermont’s economy.”
Leahy lauded the new dairy program created by the legislation, called the Dairy Margin Protection Program. While not what Leahy initially pushed for, it does allow farmers to be compensated when milk prices fall too close to the cost of production.
“We created a new dairy margin protection program which will be a vital safety net for Vermont’s hard-working and hard-pressed dairy farmers,” Leahy said. “We have set up a new dairy product donation program — a two-fer that will benefit farmers facing market gluts, and food banks needing to stock their shelves.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also welcomed the new dairy provisions.
“This bill will bring greater stability to Vermont dairy farmers by helping them to manage risks and produce products more efficiently,” he said. “It also is good news that a successful MILC program will stay in place until new insurance provisions for dairy farmers are implemented.”
Sanders was not pleased with the entire bill, however. He criticized the cuts to the nation’s food stamp program.
“I am very disappointed that this bill makes $8.6 billion in cuts over the next decade to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” Sanders said. “While the final bill steps back from $40 billion in food stamp cuts that House Republicans had demanded, it is both morally and economically wrong to cut assistance to families in a very difficult economy.”
President Obama is expected to sign the bill in the coming days.