The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed a five-year Farm Bill on a vote of 68-32. Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey is relieved the measure is finally headed to President Obama, who is expected to sign the bill into law. “It’s certainly a relief to finally have a Farm Bill after a long run. It could’ve and should’ve probably been done in 2012,” Northey said.
The $500 billion Farm Bill will end direct payments to farmers. “The old support payments were a direct payment that came whether you had high prices or not. That was changed to a safety net that will just kick in when you have low commodity prices,” Northey said. “It’s certainly much easier to defend as something that’s there when it needs to be there.”
The bill will also expand the popular crop insurance program and cuts spending on food stamps by about $800 million a year. Since the bill is a compromise, it’s not perfect, according to Northey. “There are some concerns about the County of Origin Labeling provisions that could’ve been addressed in the Farm Bill…they were not, at least not in a way that’s likely to satisfy the disagreements between the U.S. and Canada on that,” Northey said.
Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, voted for the Farm Bill. Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, voted against it. “Senator Grassley had some provisions dealing with payment limitations,” Northey said. “Although it had a lot of support, it was taken out at the end, so I think a lot of folks would’ve liked to see that in the Farm Bill as well.”
Grassley released a statement after the Senate passed the Farm Bill, saying he’s “extremely disappointed” his provisions to place a hard cap on farm payments and better define who can receive such payments “were stripped down to such a great extent that they likely won’t have much effect.”