In a 64-35 vote, the Senate last week approved bipartisan legislation to reauthorize farm programs for the next five years. The legislation covers a wide variety of programs administered by the Department of Agriculture, including those that provide farm income support and address issues such as food and nutrition assistance, land conservation, trade promotion, rural development, forestry, energy, research, horticulture, and crop insurance.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the version of the bill reported by the Senate Agriculture Committee included total direct spending of $969 billion over ten years, which is $23.6 billion less than the spending assumed under current law.
Among the policy changes in the legislation is a proposal to terminate a program that provides annual direct payments to farmers and replace it with a program that would compensate farmers who receive lower-than-expected revenues. The bill also included cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
During floor consideration of the bill, the Senate adopted an amendment offered by Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) to require the Department of Defense, the President, and the Office of Management and Budget to release reports detailing the impact that sequestration -- automatic cuts -- will have on the federal budget. Because the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction was unable to reach agreement on deficit reduction legislation, last year’s Budget Control Act requires $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts that will start to go into effect next year.
The House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to begin considering legislation next month.