Farm measure OK’d by House
$1 trillion bill heads to Senate for final passage
WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing nearly $1 trillion in spending on farm subsidies and nutrition programs on Wednesday, setting the stage for final passage of a new five-year farm bill that has been stalled for over two years.
Negotiators from the House and Senate spent several weeks working out their differences on issues in the legislation, including cuts to food stamps, income caps on farm subsidies, and a price support program for dairy farmers. The bill is expected to save about $16.6 billion over the next 10 years.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 251 to 166. The Senate is expected to take up the bill later this week.
Compared with earlier, more contentious votes on the farm bill, Wednesday’s vote was largely bipartisan. Many Democrats who had opposed it because of cuts to the food stamp program supported it. A number of Republicans, including many who wanted deeper cuts to the food stamps, also voted for the bill’s passage.
House Speaker John A. Boehner and the majority leader, Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, had endorsed the bill and urged Republicans to support it, even though they said they would have liked to see more changes.
It is unclear where the Obama administration stands on the new farm bill. Obama had signaled his opposition to any bill that cut food stamps and expanded crop insurance.
The new farm bill, which had been mired in partisan gridlock, makes fundamental changes to both nutrition and farm programs. It cuts the food stamp program by $8 billion, and about 850,000 households will lose about $90 in monthly benefits under the change.
The bill does provide a $200 million increase in financing to food banks, though many said the money might not be enough to offset the expected surge in demand for food.
Farm programs were not spared from the cuts in the new bill. The most significant change to farm programs is the elimination of a subsidy known as direct payments. These payments, about $5 billion a year, are paid to farmers whether they grow crops or not and the issue had become politically toxic over the last several years as farm income has risen to record levels.