WASHINGTONThe House of Representatives today passed a five-year farm bill that lawmakers said will reduce the deficit by $23 billion. But the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) pegged savings at $16.6 billion.
The Agricultural Act of 2014, otherwise known plainly as the farm bill, will go to the Senate for a vote that is expected to pass.
According to CBO, direct spending authorized by programs under the legislation would total $956 billion over 10 years, with nutrition programs eating up $756 billion.
The farm bill would end direct payments to farmers, address abuse and fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and consolidate nearly 100 programs or authorizations.
According to the Senate Agriculture Committee, farmers have received direct payments whether they have needed them or not. Farmers who are burdened with bad weather or volatility in the market can protect themselves under the farm bill by purchasing crop insurance that the government partially subsidizes, the committee said.
"This bill eliminates unnecessary subsidies, creates a more effective farm safety-net and strengthens our commitment to conservation of land and water," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee.
In the House, the legislation passed by a vote of 251 to 166.
The farm bill is said to make the first changes to SNAP since 1996. Some reforms include closing a loophole that artificially boosts benefit levels, establishing a 10-state pilot program to engage adults in mandatory work programs and verifying that food-stamp recipients are not receiving benefits in multiple states.
Conservation reforms also are included in the legislation, including a provision improving coordination between government agencies regarding conflicts between laws that govern pesticide use and the Endangered Species Act.
According to lawmakers, the legislation includes $23 billion in cuts to program spending comprised of approximately $18.4 billion in farm programs, $6.1 billion in conservation and $8 billion in nutrition.
But the CBO said savings would consist of $14.3 billion in commodity programs and $8 billion in nutrition from 2014 through 2023. The farm bill will increase spending on crop insurance by $5.7 billion, it said.