WASHINGTONAgricultural leaders in the House and Senate on Monday announced a bipartisan agreement on a five-year farm bill that will yield billions in savings.
The legislation would end direct payments to farmers, generate savings in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and consolidate conservation programs, according to lawmakers.
Farm bill conferees also have proposed reforms to crack down on abuse and fraud in SNAP, which historically has comprised the majority of spending in the farm bill. Lawmakers said the reforms would not exclude anyone from the food stamp program.
The bill also strengthens crop insurance that farmers purchase, helping "protect Americans from spikes in food prices", House and Senate agricultural leaders said in a news release. Also included in the legislation is a permanent livestock disaster assistance program for producers who are affected by natural disasters.
Todays bipartisan agreement puts us on the verge of enacting a five-year Farm Bill that saves taxpayers billions, eliminates unnecessary subsidies, creates a more effective farm safety-net and helps farmers and businesses create jobs," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairman (D-Mich.) of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
The Democrat-controlled Senate passed a farm bill over the summer that would yield $24 billion in cuts to agriculture programs, but the Republican-led House rejected the package and opted to split food stamps from a broader farm bill. The Agricultural Act of 2014 would prevent lottery winners from continuing to receive food-stamp aid, crack down on fraud, misuse and trafficking in the program and invest in pilot programs to help individuals obtain a job.
Lawmakers said the bill also would support new ranchers and farmers with training, expand bio-energy production and bolster rural development initiatives among other things.
Last year's expiration of the farm bill left a number of conservation programs without funding and eliminated direct payments in the event of a crisis for the agricultural industry.
The agricultural industry has raised concerns that dairy prices could spike without a farm bill because the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would have to revert back to decades-old laws.
Rep. Collin Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat and ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, cited "the need to provide long term certainty for agriculture and nutrition programs."
"This process has been going on far too long," he said. "I urge my colleagues to support this bill and the President to quickly sign it into law."