Senate approves new farm bill


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After the U.S. Senate passed a similar farm bill in 2012, a majority in the House of Representatives stalled the legislation. But a new five-year, $500 billion farm bill approved by the Senate on Monday night is now expected to bring sweeping changes to Iowa farmers.

The bill, which passed on a bipartisan 66-27 vote, will expand government subsidies for crop insurance, rice, and peanuts, in addition to making small cuts to food stamps. Additionally, it would eliminate some subsidies paid to farmers while creating policies to protect environmentally sensitive land, food aid to other countries, and rural economic-development programs. 

Because the  2012 bill failed in the House, Congress voted to extend the 2008 Farm Bill until Sept. 30, 2013.

Craig Hill, the president of the Iowa Farm Bureau, said he is pleased with the outcome of the Senate’s vote.

“The Senate has a good bipartisan bill that gives a strong basis to go onto the House,” he said.

Steve Swenka, who farms near Tiffin, said he thought one of the most important aspects of the bill was saving crop-insurance programs that subsidize farmers when crop prices decline.

“The biggest hurdle crossed was the saved insurance program,” he said. “This is an important tool in terms of risk management for farmers today, so it was a positive thing to save.”

The history of farm bills dates to the Great Depression, when Congress passed the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933.  According to Farm Aid, a nonprofit farm advocacy group, the act’s original purpose was to address plummeting crop prices and to ensure that adequate food supplies would be available.

“When a farm bill is passed, there is a lot more benefit than just to farmers,” Swenka said. “This should be important to everyone.”

Hill echoed Swenka’s thoughts about the bill’s importance, noting that a new farm bill is debated and passed approximately every five years.

“This bill touches every American,” he said.

The House plans to begin debating the bill later this month.

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