Senate votes 59-33 to reduce subsidies for the wealthiest farmers

Coburn and Durbin said the amendment would affect only the top 1 percent of U.S. farmers.

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“What we ought to do is make sure there is a safety net,” Coburn said ahead of the vote. “But like on every other program, we’re going to ask those who have more to actually participate more.”

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.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) urged senators to reject the Durbin-Coburn amendment because she said large farmers might leave the program, which would cause crop insurance prices to go up on small farmers.

“They won’t go out because it’s still too much of a sweetheart deal,” Coburn said. “Let’s save some money and ask those who are more well endowed with profits to pay their fair share.”

Durbin said the amendment would save taxpayers $1 billion. Crop insurance is subsidies at a rate of 62 percent, but the Durbin-Coburn amendment would reduce that rate to 47 percent for farmers making more than $750,000 a year.

Ahead of the Durbin-Coburn amendment vote, the Senate voted 94-0 to approve an amendment from Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) that directs a small amount of bill’s savings to provide additional tools to a risk management agency to reduce fraud and abuse in the federal crop insurance program.

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.