Niagara Gazette

Local News

June 11, 2013

Senate passes farm bill, moving debate to House

Niagara Gazette — WASHINGTON — The last time Congress passed a farm bill, Democrats had control of the House and the food stamp program was about half the size it is today.

That was five years ago.

Conservatives calling for an overhaul of the domestic food aid program will try to trim the nation's nearly $80 billion grocery bill when the House weighs in on farm legislation in a few weeks. The Senate overwhelmingly voted Monday to expand subsidies for crop insurance and make small cuts to food stamps in a five-year, half-trillion dollar measure. But passage in the House isn't expected to be so easy — or so bipartisan.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Monday that his chamber will take up its version of the farm bill later this month. He made clear his own dislike for generous farm subsidies included in the bill, saying his "concerns about our country's farm programs are well-known." But Boehner acknowledged that the rest of the chamber might not agree with him.

"If you have ideas on how to make the bill better, bring them forward," Boehner said in a statement directed to his colleagues. "Let's have the debate, and let's vote on them."

Both the House and Senate versions of the legislation cost almost $100 billion annually and expand some subsidies while eliminating others. The Senate version would end up saving about $2.4 billion a year on the farm and nutrition programs, including across-the-board cuts that took effect earlier this year, while the House version would save about $4 billion a year.

House consideration will come after more than a year's delay. The Senate passed a similar version of its farm bill last year, but the House declined to take it up during an election year amid conflict over the amount to cut from food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. One in seven Americans now uses the program.

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