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HOUSE PASSES 2014 FARM BILL, VOTE MOVES ON TO THE SENATE
Agri-Pulse reports:

The House approved the five-year farm bill (H.R. 2642) today, with a 251-166 vote, sending the nearly $1 trillion agricultural policy package to the Senate.

The bill would eliminate direct payments in favor of enhanced crop insurance, revise commodity supports, create a new dairy program, and make several other changes to agricultural policy, including an approximate $8 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

House Agriculture Committee Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said getting the legislation through was "amazingly close" to a miracle, but acknowledged that many policy differences remain among lawmakers.

"It may not have everything my friends on the right may and it may not have everything my friends on the left may want," Lucas said. "But, it's a compromise."

On SNAP, several Democrats made a last-ditch effort to their colleagues to reject the bill. "This bill will do great damage to our most vulnerable citizens while keeping loopholes open for billionaires," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.

Most of the SNAP reductions would be generated by restrictions on the definition of "categorical eligibility" for the program and reductions in the number of waivers from work requirements available for certain adult SNAP recipients.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a score for the bill Tuesday estimating that direct spending for authorized programs would total $956 billion over 10 years, of which $756 billion would be for nutrition programs. Relative to spending and revenues projected under CBO's May 2013 baseline, CBO said it estimates that enacting the legislation would lower budget deficits by $16.6 billion and increase revenues by $100 million over 10 years. This came in below the $23 billion in possible savings being touted by bill supporters, but they noted that the farm bill baseline had already been reduced by $6.6 billion.

The Senate is expected to approve the legislation as early as this week, and President Obama is expected to sign it into law shortly afterward.

After the vote, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said the farm bill's passage is "a major event for me personally," noting that to him, "there's nothing more important than a comprehensive farm bill."

He said farmers now have certainty and a safety net for five more years, but "it took two and half years to get there."

Lucas said producers need to work with their members of Congress "with even more intensity from this time on. I'm not sure how hard it will be next time."

He noted that the compromise on the dairy provisions was a major turning point that helped the farm bill succeed.

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said while the dairy deal is not ideal for him, it does include a fundamental "red light" for producers when overproduction is imminent.

"If I hadn't done what I did on dairy, we wouldn't have a bill," he said, noting that it helped move forward compromise on farm payment limits as well.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who voted against the bill over opposition to food stamp reductions, said most Democrats that voted against it are urban Democrats. He noted that specialty and organic provisions in the bill encouraged several in his party to vote in favor, and that more California Democrats voted for it than Republicans.


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