Washington, D.C.—The Senate reached a deal on June 21 to pass the Farm Bill after much back and forth debate on several key issues. The vote tally was 64 to 35.
One hot-button topic in the bill was the significant cutting of food stamps for low-income families. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) argued against the food stamp program being decreased, but it is likely that the program will face even deeper cuts in the House version of the bill due to the heavy Republican influence.
Another fiercely contested topic was the crop insurance program that will favor large-scale farms over smaller ones due to the emphasis on production yields as a determinant of subsidies granted. Large-scale farms can also more easily afford higher insurance premiums than a small-scale farm can.
These cuts are said to save $23 billion per year, and would cost a total of $969 billion over the next 10 years.
Despite the widespread debate that continues even though the bill has been passed through the Senate, Senate Agricultural Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) expressed pride and achievement in a statement released after the bill was passed.
“This bill was developed through bipartisan collaboration, passed committee with broad bipartisan support, and we now have a bipartisan agreement to move forward with a bill that affects 16 million American jobs,” Stabenow noted in an official statement. “We are now closer than ever to achieving real reform in America’s agriculture policy.”
There were also some parts of the bill that offered improvement and were mutually encouraged by both parties. One such example was the inclusion of extra grant money for states to promote fruits and vegetables. Another step up was the focus on making more efficient conservation programs that were found to be redundant.
The House will take up the bill in mid-July.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, August 2012 (online 6/25/12)