The Senate passed its version of a new Farm Bill that looks much different than the 1996 farm bill, which was designed to wean producers away from subsidy payments.

Unlike the House bill, the Senate legislation sets a cap on subsidy payments any one farm could receive. The Democratic-crafted Senate bill passed by a margin 58-40. Senate Agriculture Committee chairman, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is calling the bill ``a tremendous victory for the economy of rural America.'

Nine Republicans, primarily from Northeastern states that stand to benefit from the dairy subsidies, voted for the bill. Whereas two Democrats opposed it, including one from Arkansas, whose producers would be hurt by the payment caps.

The Senate legislation, which renews farm programs through 2006, authorizes $45 billion in new spending over the next five years, a 27 percent increase over current programs. The House authorized a $38 billion increase over the same period.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-Texas) says passage of a Senate farm bill should signal both sides to begin work immediately on working out a final bill to send to the White House. “Producers across the country are justifiably anxious for a new farm bill, and the House Agriculture Committee will begin immediate work to have a final House-Senate bill for the 2002 crop year," says House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-Tesxas).

In a nutshell, the Senate Farm Bill:

  • Authorizes $45 billion in new spending over the next five years, 27 percent increase over current programs. The House authorized a $38 billion increase over the same period.
  • Requires country of origin labels for pork, beef, lamb, farm-raised fish, vegetables and fruit.
  • Bans meatpackers from owning or controlling hogs, cattle and sheep within 14 days of slaughter.
  • Mandates humane euthanasia of animals too weak from sickness or injury to stand or walk at stockyards, auctions, and other intermediate livestock markets.
  • Calls on USDA toenforce the Humane Slaughter Act, originally passed in 1958.
  • Provides $2 billion in subsidies for dairy producers, with $500 million earmarked for 12 northeastern states.
  • Doubles spending on conservation programs. Provides subsidies to producers in seven Western and Northeastern states who agree to reduce their use of irrigation water to protect endangered fish.
  • Permits private financing of food sales to Cuba.
  • Boosts subsidy rates for grain and cotton by varying amounts at a total cost of $11.3 billion over the next five years. Lowers fixed payments that are paid to producers of the same crops.
  • Establishes a new program to make supplemental payments to grain, cotton and soybean growers when prices fall below predetermined levels.
  • A new subsidy for peanuts is created, replacing an existing quota program, and payments are restored for honey, wool and mohair. Subsidies also extended to lentils and chickpeas.
  • Creates new subsidies for wool, mohair, honey and lentils similar to those now paid to grain, cotton and soybean growers.
  • Cuts subsidies to some cotton and grain operations by limiting total annual payments that any one producer can collect to $275,000. Some subsidies are essentially unlimited under current law.
  • Provides $2.4 billion to producers who lost crops to drought and other weather problems in 2001.
  • Restores food stamps to many legal immigrants.

Associated Press, Reuters, Combest press release