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U.S. Ag Secretary Vilsack would like to see congressional approval of farm bill, immigration reform
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday urged Congress to approve a proposed farm bill, saying he hoped a bipartisan deal on agriculture would create momentum to also pass immigration reform and a long-term deficit reduction plan.
"It's like turning a wheel," Vilsack said in a telephone interview with the Lawrence Journal-World. "Once you give it a push, it can roll around for a while. We have to get momentum in this Congress for getting something done," he said.
Passage of a farm bill provides the best opportunity "to get that wheel rolling," he said.
The House and Senate are set to consider separate five-year farm bills. The Senate bill would cut $2.4 billion annually, while the House plan would reduce spending by $4 billion out of about $100 billion annually.
Both versions would cut food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The Senate bill would cut $400 million per year, while the House would reduce it by $2 billion annually.
The administration supports the Senate version, Vilsack said, because the House bill cuts SNAP too deeply.
And Vilsack said it's important to approve immigration legislation, too.The Senate Judiciary Committee is aiming to pass before the Memorial Day recess an immigration bill to secure the border and offer citizenship to millions.
Vilsack said getting those two pieces of legislation passed may pave the way for cooperation on a budget deal.
Congress and the White House's failure to agree on long-term deficit reduction has led to automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration. Vilsack said sequestration "does create a challenge to fund programs."