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Senate passes farm bill

DANIEL LOOKER 06/21/2012 @ 1:54pm Business Editor

Early Thursday afternoon the U.S. Senate passed a farm bill, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, by a vote of 64-35, four more than the 60 votes required.

The relatively narrow margin of victory was due in part to opposition from senators from southern states. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) said she opposed it in the final vote because she doesn't believe it does enough for her state's rice farmers. "I cast the vote against the bill to send a signal that a more work needs to be done," she said on the Senate floor after the vote.

Just before the vote, after wrapping up a third day of voting on amendments, Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) thanked her colleagues for their patience and "for supporting this bipartisan effort…"

"I especially want to thank my ranking member, Senator [Pat] Roberts (R-KS)," she said. "Senator Roberts is my friend and my partner in this effort and I'm very grateful."

Stabenow said the farm bill will benefit the 16 million Americans with jobs tied to agriculture and its related industries as well as providing certainty for farmers and ranchers, "the men and women who work hard from sunrise to sunset" producing food. And it will support a sector of the economy with strong exports.

The bill also brings major reforms to agricultural programs, she said, including an end to direct payments.

"We're putting in place the most significant payment reforms ever," she said "I want to thank Senator Grassley for his tenacity…" referring to Senator Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican on the committee who has fought for decades to tighten up payment limits and loopholes that have been used to circumvent them. She also thanked Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), not a member of the committee but a consistent partner with Grassley on that issue.

The bill trims more than $23 billion from federal spending over the next 10 years. Stabenow said it's "probably the only opportunity to vote on deficit reduction in a bipartisan way on the Senate floor in the next number of months."

Roberts agreed that the bill will be a rare chance to trim federal spending with bipartisan support.

He said that the committee's markup of the bill in 4 1/2 hours in April set a record and praised the Senate's consideration of 73 amendments in the past 2 1/2 days.

"This is a good bill. Is it the best possible bill? No. Is is the best bill possible," he said, urging his colleagues to support it.

Stabenow and Roberts were given most of the credit for getting the bill through the SEnate by the Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Reid praised "the leadership of these two fine senators."

The Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, praised Reid for the way amendments were allowed in the bill's consideration, including some that weren't germane to the bill, dealing with how mandatory spending cuts will affect federal programs and wage rules under the National Labor Relations Act.

"This is one of the finest moments in the Senate in recent times, in terms of how we pass a bill," McConnell said.

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Bad Rap 06/25/2012 @ 6:01am I agree there are several "fat cats" getting all the help (money) while the little guys like continue to try an plug along with my only farming break being an ag exemption on the land. The biggest problem I have with "the farm bill" is, they are hiding the food stamp allotment in it. When people look at the billions of dollars in "the farm bill" much of it is the food stamp piece. I say take it out and let government budget for that separately. What else might be hidden in "the farm bill". How about a little trickle down to the little guys who are struggling, selling out, loosing their farms, or just barely scraping by while the Fat Cats get all the help?

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Agricultural Reform - Really? 06/21/2012 @ 10:49pm Agriculture doesn't need reform; the Senate needs reform and that will happen in November.

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Re: Re: Agricultural Reform - Really? 06/22/2012 @ 9:01am Umm...agriculture needs even more reform. The kind that stops the average persons taxes from being sucked into the pockets of rich armchair farmers in the midwest. Agriculture, not big oil, not airlines is the most heavily subsidized industry in the United States by far. Rich farmers that work 3 months a year, the so-called land grant Universities and big agribusiness are the welfare queens in this system and people are fed up. This bill should have gone even farther with cuts, but hopefully we will get more next time.

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