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Feb. 05--The U.S. Senate passed the Farm Bill on Tuesday, giving broad bipartisan support to the long overdue measure and sending it to the White House.
President Obama, in a statement, praised the comprehensive legislation for its "common-sense reforms," signaling he would sign the package into law.
"As with any compromise, the Farm Bill isn't perfect," the president said, "but on the whole, it will make a positive difference not only for the rural economies that grow America's food, but for our nation."
The Senate approved the measure on a vote of 68 to 32.
Missouri Sens. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, and Roy Blunt, a Republican, voted in support of the bill, as did Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran.
Sen. Pat Roberts, the senior senator from Kansas and long-standing member of the chamber's Agriculture Committee, voted against the measure.
Mr. Roberts, a Republican, said he opposed the legislation out of concern for his state's agricultural producers.
"We care so much that after three years of work, we will not settle for supporting backwards legislation just to get something done," he said on the Senate floor Monday night. "I call it a look in the rearview mirror."
The Senate had twice before passed reauthorization of the Farm Bill, in June of last year and in June 2012. The U.S. House did not take up either of those measures but acted last summer to split farm programs from nutrition programs.
A conference committee of representatives and senators began negotiating the differences between the House and Senate versions in October. The bill that emerged returned the farm and nutrition components in their usual package.
The House passed the hammered-out version last week. Mr. Blunt hailed the compromises required to get the bill through both chambers.
"While this may not be the best possible bill, it's the best bill possible right now," the Missourian said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
"We must provide much-needed certainty for our nation's farmers and ranchers so that they can continue to work each and every day to feed the country and the world."
Ms. McCaskill said the Farm Bill, last reauthorized in 2008, cuts billions in spending while still providing a safety net for agricultural interests and low-income families.
"This is a solid, bipartisan bill that will bring needed resources to Missouri's farmers and ranchers, boost jobs and businesses and offer some sorely needed certainty to our rural communities," she said.
The bill will build upon and make permanent livestock disaster programs, while it ends direct payments to producers; these have been replaced by crop insurance options.
Ms. McCaskill said the measure would trim $8 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, informally known as food stamps.
Mr. Moran said the Farm Bill gives producers information they need to plan for the next five years, the length of these programs.
"Ultimately, consumers are best served when farmers and ranchers know the rules of the game and have the support they need to continue work in one of the most high-risk professions, agriculture," the Kansan said.
Ken Newton can be reached
at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPNewton.
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