By Ramsey Cox
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has scheduled a vote from Monday on the farm bill.
Reid filed cloture on the House-passed amendment to H.R. 2642 — the $956 billion conference committee farm bill — setting up a vote for Monday at 5:30 p.m. If at least 60 senators vote to end debate, the Senate will then proceed to a vote on final passage.
President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk. It would save about $23 billion in spending over 10 years.
A majority of the spending in the bill is for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), popularly known as food stamp program. The original House proposal would have cut $39 billion from food stamps, while the Senate-passed bill called for a $4 billion cut. Conferees settled on cutting $8 billion, rankling some Democrats, but the bill is still expected to pass the Senate.
“While it cuts more to food assistance programs than some of us would like, it’s a good compromise that will protect needy families,” Reid said Thursday morning.
The bill finds $8.6 billion in food-stamp savings by requiring households to receive at least $20 per year in home heating assistance before they automatically qualify for food stamps, instead of the $1 threshold now in place in some states.
One of the conferees, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), said he wouldn’t support final passage of the bill because it didn’t include major reforms to farm subsidies that both the original Senate and House bills included.
“Does the new farm bill improve agriculture in America? I believe unfortunately the answer is no,” Roberts said. “We should not pass a farm bill with more government subsidies, more government regulations and more waste.”
On farm subsidies, the bill offers producers a choice between a shallow loss revenue insurance long favored by Northern crop growers and price-based supports supported by those in the South. The target prices for the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) option are the same as in the House-passed farm bill. The Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program is triggered when revenue falls below 86 percent, up from 85 percent in the House bill and down from 89 percent in the Senate bill.
Negotiators have altered payment limit provisions contained in both the House and Senate farm bills. The limits are now capped at $125,000 per individual or $250,000 per couple, but caps within that total for PLC, ARC or marketing loan deficiency payments have been removed.
The compromise also changes restrictions on the so-called “actively engaged” provision. The criteria for management has been strengthened compared to current law, a source said, but the provision appears to be scaled back from the labor requirement in the earlier versions of the bills.
— Erik Wasson contributed to this article.