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UPDATE: Senate passes farm bill by wide margin

By a margin well beyond the two-thirds majority to override a presidential veto, the U.S. Senate late Thursday morning followed the House of Representative's Wednesday action by approving the farm bill, setting the stage for the legislation to finally become law.

The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 was passed by a margin of 81 to 15, according to a Senate Agriculture Committee staffer. Sixty-six votes are required to achieve a "supermajority," that required to override a White House veto. President George W. Bush has repeatedly said he would veto the bill he has called "bloated."

But, Senate leaders lauded the bill for its comprehensive reform on all that touches the production and distribution of food in the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) called upon President Bush to recognize the bill's merits and end the opposition to the proposed legislation.

"Senate passage of the farm bill conference report on a strong, bipartisan basis demonstrates support for core farm bill initiatives -- conservation, energy, nutrition and rural development -- while continuing and strengthening farm income protection. This bill benefits every American, from our smallest towns to our biggest cities, urban and rural residents, farmers and non-farmers," Harkin said Thursday.

"I urge the President to look at this farm bill with fresh eyes and an objective mind. To date, he has focused on a handful of elements in this vast bill that he disagrees with. I urge him to look at the bill as a whole, and to see the many critical investments and reforms in this bill that have won support from both parties, from every region of the country, and from rural and urban members of Congress alike. If he does, I am confident he will conclude that this is a good bill that he can and should sign," Harkin added.

According to Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Ranking Republican of the Senate Ag Committee, the legislation will add $10 billion to the nation's "nutrition safety-net." This increase, which accounts for the majority of the bill's mandated funding, was made possible, Chambliss said, by "reductions in the commodity and crop insurance programs.

"We are now one step closer to making the new farm bill a reality," Chambliss said. "Our bill provides certainty to America's farmers and ranchers and restates the strong commitment of Congress to the hungry and less fortunate. The farm bill includes provisions to help low-income Americans meet nutritional needs by providing school children with increased access to fresh fruit and vegetables and enhancing our investments to the Food Stamp Program and food banks.

"We have written a good bill not only for American agriculture, but for millions of needy Americans and I strongly urge the President to sign it into law."

By a margin well beyond the two-thirds majority to override a presidential veto, the U.S. Senate late Thursday morning followed the House of Representative's Wednesday action by approving the farm bill, setting the stage for the legislation to finally become law.

Highlights of the Senate bill, according to a report from Harkin's office, include:

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