Washington — The sweeping farm bill that Congress sent to President Obama Tuesday has something for almost everyone, from the nation's 47 million food stamp recipients to Southern peanut growers, Midwest corn farmers and the maple syrup industry in the Northeast.
After years of setbacks, the Senate on Tuesday sent the nearly $100 billion-a-year measure to President Barack Obama. The White House said the president will sign the bill on Friday in Michigan, the home state of Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow.
The Senate passed the bill 68-32 after House passage last week. The bill provides a financial cushion for farmers who face unpredictable weather and market conditions. It also provides subsidies for rural communities and environmentally-sensitive land. But the bulk of its cost is for the food stamp program, which aids 1 in 7 Americans. The bill would cut food stamps by $800 million a year, or around 1 percent.
House Republicans had hoped to reduce the bill's costs even further, pointing to a booming agriculture sector in recent years and arguing that the now $80 billion-a-year food stamp program has spiraled out of control. The House passed a bill in September that would have made a cut to food stamps that was five times more than the eventual cut.
The battle over the bill split Kansas’ two Republican senators.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran voted for the measure, saying, “While not ideal, this bill reduces farm program and food stamp spending by $16.6 billion and provides agriculture producers with the long-term certainty they need to produce food, fiber and fuel for our country and the world.”
He added, “Ultimately, consumers are best served when farmers and ranchers know the rules of the game and have the support they need to continue work in one of the most high-risk professions – agriculture.”
But U.S. Sen Pat Roberts said the bill fell short.
“Unfortunately, I believe that Congress has missed the mark, and that the conference report goes backwards towards protectionist subsidy programs, instead of forward with innovative and responsible solutions,” he said.
Roberts also noted that all four Kansas House members, all Republicans, voted against the measure.
“That should grab everyone in America’s attention – the entire House delegation from the wheat state – was united in opposing this version of the farm bill,” Roberts said.