In an unusually bipartisan effort, the Senate passed a version of the Farm Bill Monday with a vote of 66-27. The national farm policy — which comes up every five years for debate — will now be taken up in the House. Republican leadership there said today that it will move forward quickly toward a vote.
The Agricultural Reform, Food and Jobs Act, a complex 1,150-page bill, largely replaces direct payments to farmers with an expanded crop insurance program that requires conservation compliance. The bill sports two dozen amendments, including several conservation measures that PAN and our partners have pressed hard for. But overall, the news is mixed.
While a potentially dangerous proposed amendment that would have weakened pesticide protections under the Clean Water Act was stripped from the final Senate bill, other more positive measures — including an amendment to improve pollinator protections — also failed to move forward.
The Senate bill includes significant budget cuts ($24 billion in total), with a disproportionate amount (more than $6 billion over 10 years) taken from important conservation programs designed to help farmers protect soil health and natural resources. Additional conservation cuts are expected under the sequester, and House leaders have said they would press for more significant reductions.
PAN Senior Scientists Margaret Reeves has been following the national debate closely, and notes that a key stage of the process is now in play:
"We'll need to work hard together to push for bipartisan support of vital conservation programs as the House moves rapidly next week to pass its version of the food and farm bill."
Our partners at the National Sustainable Agricultural Coalition are tracking the Farm Bill's progress carefully in DC; here's their analysis of the Senate bill. Stay tuned for more details — and ways to press policymakers for a Farm Bill that supports farmers, rural economies and the health of our soils, farms and communities.
Note: This post was updated 6/13.