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Senate Passes Farm Bill

Harvest Public Media file photo

The U.S. Senate approved a new comprehensive farm bill Monday, its plan for everything from food and nutrition assistance to disaster aid for livestock producers to crop insurance for farmers.

But before you go popping champagne corks and celebrating the creation of five-years of agricultural policy, know this: The U.S. House has yet to weigh in.

Officially called the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, the approved bill is pretty similar to one the Senate passed last year. It will cost about $955 billion over ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office [PDF]. The bill cuts about $2.4 billion in annual spending from previous legislation according to the AP.

Here’s what you should know:

Cuts To SNAP: $400 Million Annually

Domestic food aid accounts for about 80% of what call “the farm bill,” and most of bitter policy battles surrounding it.

The Senate bill would spend $760.5 billion over 10 years for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, or what used to be known as “food stamps.” That’s a $400 million cut in per year spending, or about half of a percent.

House Republicans, however, are hoping for much larger cuts to the program. The bill that passed the House Agriculture Committee last month would cut about $2 billion annually from SNAP over ten years.

Direct Payments: Out, Crop Insurance: In

Government payments to farmers regardless of how much they planted, known as direct payments, are mostly going away. The bill expands federally subsidized crop insurance, which is largely seen as a win for the Midwestern corn and soybean farmers with whom crop insurance is already very popular.

Crop Insurance Tied To Conservation, Income

This bill would, for the first time, force policyholders to comply with conservation rules as a condition for receiving federally subsidized crop insurance. It would also add a means test to the program, with conditions for farmers with an Adjusted Gross Income for $750,000 or more.

The House is set to start floor debate on its version of the farm bill the week of June 17. Should the House pass farm bill legislation, the House and Senate bills would have to be joined by a Conference Committee and signed by President Barack Obama before the one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill expires at the end of September.

Harvest Public Media's Amy Mayer contributed to this report.

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