SENATE PASSES FARM BILL
By a 58-40 vote, the Senate today passed its farm bill. It is expected that conferees will be named immediately, but the conference will take some time to complete. There are several major differences between the two bills, including commodity loan rates and payment limitations.
Western senators added an amendment that would put $500 million of emergency funding in the Livestock Assistance Program (LAP). LAP provides financial relief to livestock producers who are experiencing livestock production loss due to drought and other disasters. Other provisions in the emergency funding amendment include $1.8 billion to the Commodity Credit Corporation for farmers suffering crop losses due to army worms, $100 million for apple producers who suffer from the loss of various markets and $50 million for the USDA's administration expenses.
Farmers would be subsidized to reduce irrigation water use in an effort to protect endangered fish under another amendment that angered western agricultural interests and brought a pledge from the Farm Bureau not to support the entire Senate farm bill. The $1 billion program was restricted to seven states: Maine, New Hampshire, Nevada, New Mexico, California, Oregon and Washington. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) predicted that "all the other states will be fighting to get in" the water conservation program once they see the benefits. The program is not included in a House-passed farm bill.
An amendment from Sen. Mitch McConnell also was adopted. It would provide $500 million in Food Stamp Program assistance by lowering planned increases in price supports and loan rates for farmers. The farm bill had called for farmers to receive a price support payment equal to $3.45 per bushel for wheat and $2.35 for corn. Under McConnell's plan, price supports would change to $3.445 per bushel for wheat and $2.347 for corn -- less than 1% per bushel.
Among its provisions, McConnell's proposal would allow low-income disabled individuals and their families with assets of up to $3,000 to be eligible for food stamps. Currently, households with disabled members are subject to a $2,000 resource eligibility limit. ""Many children and families rely on food stamps for the greater part of their nutritional assistance,"" said McConnell. ""I have been a long-time supporter of the Food Stamp Program.""