Senate rejects amendment to end tobacco farm subsidies

Their amendment would have prohibited the payment by the federal crop insurance program of any portion of the premium for a policy or plan of insurance for tobacco. Feinstein said tobacco farmers could still buy crop insurance, but it wouldn't be federally subsidized. She added that the effects of tobacco already cost taxpayers billions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid expenses.

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The Senate is considering a $955 billion five-year farm bill. The Senate isn’t expecting to finish work on the bill this week, but it will continue the work in June.

S. 954 would cut more than $23 billion from current spending levels over 10 years, including $4 billion worth of cuts in food stamps, which has led to some Democratic opposition.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who opposed the amendment, said if Feinstein’s goal was to punish the tobacco industry, then she should instead offer an amendment making tobacco illegal.

“The only thing this agricultural commodity asks is let us participate in the federal crop insurance program,” Burr said ahead of the vote. “Don’t do this to a piece of the agriculture community … that contributes a lot to this country.”

The White House has said it supports the Senate farm bill, which shifts farm subsidies away from direct payments to farmers and toward expanded crop insurance.

The House has a $940 billion farm bill that cuts spending by $39.7 billion over 10 years — $20.5 billion are cuts to food stamps. The House bill likely won’t get a floor vote until June.

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