January 29

House passes farm bill over conservatives’ objections

The measure, likely to pass the Senate, has been at the core of a years-long battle over food stamps.

By Mary Clare Jalonick
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Three combines harvest winter wheat near Roggen, Colo. The House passed a farm bill Wednesday that continues to heavily subsidize major crops.

2009 Associated Press File Photo

“I don’t know where they are going to make that up,” McGovern said.

To pass the bill, Lucas and his Senate counterpart, Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, found ways to bring many potential naysayers on board. They spent more than two years crafting the bill to appeal to members from all regions of the country. They included a boost in money for crop insurance popular in the Midwest; higher rice and peanut subsidies for Southern farmers; and renewal of federal land payments for Western states.

They also backed away from repealing a catfish program – a move that would have angered Mississippi lawmakers – and dropped House language that would have thwarted a California law requiring all eggs sold in the state to come from hens living in larger cages. Striking out that provision was a priority for California lawmakers who did not want to see the state law changed.

For those seeking reform of farm programs, the legislation would eliminate a $4.5 billion-a-year farm subsidy called direct payments, which are paid to farmers whether they farm or not. But the bill nonetheless would continue to heavily subsidize major crops – corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and cotton – while shifting many of those subsidies toward more politically defensible insurance programs. That means farmers would have to incur losses before they could get a payout.

The almost $100 billion-a-year bill would save around $1.65 billion annually overall, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The amount was less than the $2.3 billion annual savings the agriculture committees originally projected for the bill.

An aide to Lucas said the difference was due to how the CBO calculated budget savings from recent automatic across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequestration.

Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

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