Farm Bill Agreement on Amendments Paves Way for Floor Debate

U.S. Senate negotiators reached a deal on farm-bill amendments, paving the way for a possible vote on legislation that would cut agricultural programs by $23.6 billion over 10 years.

“With the agreement that we have, members are saying, ’Yes, we should move forward,’” Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, said tonight on the Senate floor.

The Senate tomorrow will begin voting on more than 70 amendments ranging from sugar subsidies to food stamps, Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said after announcing the deal. Senators also will vote on amendments unrelated to U.S. agricultural policy, including on North Korea and merit pay in labor-union contracts.

Lawmakers are trying to pass a five-year reauthorization of all U.S. Department of Agriculture programs before expiration on Sept. 30. The bill, which would end direct payments to growers as part of the biggest change in U.S. farm-subsidy policy in decades, is a target for budget cutters because of farm profits and the highest-ever expenditures on food stamps.

Net farm income this year will be $91.7 billion, the second-highest ever, according to the USDA. Spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, the department’s biggest expense, reached a record $75.7 billion last year, double the level of four years ago.

The bill is S. 3240.

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