The Senate has passed a five-year, half-trillion-dollar farm bill that cuts farm subsidies and land conservation spending by about $2 billion a year. But the measure largely protects sugar growers and some 46 million food stamp beneficiaries.
The 64-35 vote for passage defied the political odds. Many predicted that legislation this expensive and complicated would have little chance in an election year. Senator's Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson voted against it. Isakson says,
"The bill does not sufficiently represent all farmers across the country, and it fails to address skyrocketing costs associated with the Nutrition Title that now accounts for almost 80 percent of this bill. The bill also heavily favors certain commodities in certain areas of the country and does not provide a sufficient safety net for farmers in the Southeast. A recent University of Georgia survey of 22 representative peanut farms across the Southeast found that this version of the Farm Bill would provide zero assistance to 21 of the 22 peanut farms if the price of peanuts fell below the cost of production. Other crops across the Southeast region do not fare much better." –
The bill eliminates direct payments to farmers regardless of whether they plant crops. That program, which costs about $5 billion a year, has lost support at a time of big federal deficits.
The legislation now goes to the GOP-led House, which is likely to seek deeper cuts in food stamps.