Farm Bill Begins Senate Debate

Earlier this week, the Senate began debate over the 2012 Farm Bill, setting the stage for the eventual passage of the Senate’s vision of federal farm and agricultural policy.

The farm bill has been in limbo for the past several months. Politicians have attempted to pander to farmers and ranchers by praising the agricultural sector and promising swift action on farm legislation, only to allow the bill to be bogged down in election year politics. After months of protracted debate, the bill finally passed the Senate Agriculture Committee in a bipartisan vote and is ready to be discussed and debated by the full Senate.

The Senate is expected to spend up to five weeks discussing various provisions of the bill as Democrats and Republicans offer amendments and challenge controversial provisions.

Anxious farmers, however, are watching the clock. The current farm bill expires at the end of September, only a few months away. If the Senate does not pass a new bill or if the House rejects the Senate version of the farm bill, agricultural programs could expire, throwing American agriculture into chaos.

The current Senate bill contains about $23 billion in agricultural spending cuts. Members of the House of Representatives and President Barack Obama are hopeful that this figure can be increased (and many House Republicans are looking at Food Stamps funding, currently the majority of spending authorized in the Senate bill, as a prime target).

Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow is confident that she has the 60 votes needed to move the bill forward if opponents try to block it.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer