Nebraska’s senators voted for the Farm Bill that has passed the Senate, but neither is completely happy with the legislation.
Sen. Mike Johanns, a former Secretary of Agriculture, says it isn’t what he wants, but it is better than nothing. So, Johanns voted in favor of the Farm Bill that has passed the Senate.
“I’ve said a number of times on a number of occasions, this bill would not be a perfect piece of legislation, not the Farm Bill I would have necessarily written,” Johanns tells reporters during a conference call, “but the conclusion I reached is that it is far better than no Farm Bill at all.”
Johanns says the Senate bill, even with the flaws he sees, is better policy than what the House Agriculture Committee approved.
The Senate passed its version of the Farm on a 66-27 vote. It is estimated to cost $955 billion over the next 10 years.
Johanns says agriculture needs a long-term Farm Bill to provide stability, a point made by Sen. Deb Fischer during her conference call with reporters.
Fischer says there remains room for savings in the bill, mostly in the food stamp program.
“As many of you have heard me say, I would like to see additional cuts made to the nutrition title. That is over 80% of the funding in the bill,” Fischer says. “Compared to the overall cuts to agriculture, the spending reductions in the nutrition title were just a mere fraction.”
Spending on food stamps and other nutrition programs in the Senate bill totals $760.5 billion over 10 years. In comparison, commodity programs in the bill total $41.3 billion.
Though the Senate bill makes the move touted last year from government price supports to risk management, it doesn’t go as far. This year, the Senate made concessions to southern farm interests and kept price supports in place for rice and peanuts. Most crop farmers would no longer be able to rely on the federal government propping up prices, but instead would rely on crop insurance as a hedge against loss.
Crop insurance is expected to cost $89 billion over 10 years.
The House Agriculture Committee made bigger cuts in food stamps. While the Senate cut $3.9 billion through tweaks in regulations, the House committee proposes $20.5 billion during the next 10 years. The full House is set to debate the bill next week. Differences with the Senate then would have to be worked out.