Farm Bill Passes the Senate: Now What?

Last Thursday, June 21, the Farm Bill continued to lumber its way through Congress, reaching its first major legislative milestone as the Senate voted for its passage (64-35). Next up: on July 11 the House will get going on their markup process. All of these delays hint at the possibility that the House will stall on passage of the bill and miss the September 30 deadline. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has not included the bill on the House’s action list this summer as he decides how to proceed.

What’s going to take so long, you ask? Well, gentle readers, here’s the thing, in a nutshell courtesy of the Chicago Tribune:

"Agriculture Committee leaders in the House and Senate disagree on fundamental points for the new farm law, ranging from how much to cut spending to how extensive reforms should be. The House wants much deeper cuts in food stamps and $10 billion more in cuts overall than the Senate and would offer higher price supports to farmers when the Senate would end them."

“Fundamental points.”  If the Senate was ready to rumble, the House is ready to brawl. Or stall, to see who blinks first. We'll find out later next month.

In the meantime, the Senate did not approve Senator Gillibrand’s amendment to restore proposed SNAP cuts, and eliminated subsidies (or direct payments to farmers) in favor of crop insurance. (Remember, crop insurance guarantees farmers' incomes regardless of market prices, and the Senate version is heavily subsidized by the government.)

And in case you missed it, here are some other resources for you Farm Bill wonks out there who would like a roundup on what the Senate just passed with a taste of commentary:

Over at Food & Water Watch, Patty Lovera commented that this bill reaffirms corporate control and consolidation in the U.S. food system, owing to the Senate voting down or not considering amendments which would have addressed antitrust issues (specifically the so-called “Packer Ban” amendment).

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition sums up the Senate proceedings, noting the defeat of two amendments of interest to Ecocentric. One, from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would have required labeling for GMO foods. The other would have prohibited EPA aerial inspections of factory farms.

Finally, the Environmental Working Group provides a roll call showing how each senator voted.

Ecocentric will report back on the Farm Bill’s progress in July. Stay tuned!