The Senate passed a five-year Farm Bill by a vote of 68-32 today following the House’s passage of the bill last week. President Obama is expected to sign the bill.
While agriculture groups largely praised the bill’s efforts on reforming subsidy programs and bolstering research and other projects, hunger relief organizations worried about the effects of cutting $8.6 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
"Today's action will allow the proud men and women who feed millions around the world to invest confidently in the future. Our communities will have additional support to attract new economic opportunity and create jobs. During difficult times, children, working families, seniors and people with disabilities will have access to nutritious food," agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. "This legislation is important to the entire nation.
“Throughout the long process, Farm Bill programs for fruits and vegetables were maintained or strengthened. This is a clear sign that policymakers recognize the importance of our industry to the nutritional well-being of all Americans and to the overall U.S. economy,” Robert Guenther, SVP for public policy at the United Fresh Produce Association, said in a press release.
“The Farm Bill that has now gained approval in both houses of Congress demonstrates that the consumer-driven, farmer-powered organic sector — the fourth-largest food and feed commodity — is an important part of the U.S. agricultural community. It is a victory for organic farmers, businesses and consumers,” Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the Organic Trade Association, said in a press release.
Legislators compromised on a dairy insurance program rather than implement a provision favored by dairy producers.
"We didn’t wind up precisely where we wanted in terms of the dairy program, but the milk glass is more than half-full," Jim Mulhem, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, said in a statement.
Reductions to SNAP funding come on top of cutbacks totaling about $11 billion that took effect last November.
“Although national unemployment rates are slowly improving, economic recovery remains elusive for millions of low-income families. Food banks and other charities remain stretched in their efforts to meet sustained high demand. The farm bill cuts to SNAP will surely increase demand at food banks and pantries in the impacted states, particularly coming on top of the November cuts that affected all SNAP participants,” Feeding America CEO Bob Aiken said in a statement prior to the bill’s passage.
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