As expected, the Senate passed the gigantic and long overdue bipartisan farm bill this week in a 66-27 vote, setting up our agricultural policies for the next decade. And while the bill (S. 954, Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act) still must pass through the House before making its way into our law books, it's not the bill many had hoped for.
According to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture and co-author of the bill, “The Senate today voted to support 16 million American jobs, to save taxpayers billions and to implement the most significant reforms to agriculture programs in decades,” Stabenow says. “By eliminating duplication and streamlining programs, we were able to save $24 billion while strengthening initiatives that help farmers and small businesses reach new markets. This bill proves that by working across party lines, we can save taxpayer money and create smart policies that lay the foundation for a stronger economy.”
But small farm and conservation advocates see it differently. In a bucolic fantasy world, the 2013 farm bill would have included major reforms—removing subsidies for the nation's dominating big-ag giants and giving America's small farmers more funding and support. But more than $41 billion that would have gone directly to farmers was cut from the bill. Instead, much of that funding went to crop insurance and disaster relief. The bill also avoided efforts to cut funding for sugar and tobacco and other big-ag farm supports. Conservation programs saw a cut of $3.5 billion, and food stamps were slashed by $4 billion. According to Grist writer Nathanael Johnson, "A better title would be the Crop Insurance, Conservation and Food Stamps Act."
Also failing to make an appearance in the final bill was the GMO labeling amendment introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). If approved, it would have helped states enact laws requiring labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.
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