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House Approves Farm Bill on 251-166 Vote
USAgNet - 01/30/2014

House lawmakers passed a $956 billion farm bill Wednesday that makes significant changes to the nation's farm support programs, but also cuts billions of dollars in federal food stamp aid. The measure passed 251 to 166 amid opposition from liberals, who said that the food stamp cuts go too far, and conservatives concerned that the legislation failed to further curtail government spending.

The bill now heads to the Senate, which is expected to give final approval by Friday and send the measure to the White House for President Obama's signature.

This week's votes cap more than three years of negotiations on a new five-year agreement, reports the Washington Post. The 939-page bill authorizes the end of direct government payments made to farmers, revamps and consolidates dozens of federal conservation programs, tweaks several subsidy programs for the nation's crops and cuts billions of dollars in federal food stamp money. The measure is expected to cut federal spending by $16 billion over the next decade, according to official government estimates by the Congressional Budget Office.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank D. Lucas on Wednesday called the bill a victory for the nation's farmers and for lawmakers eager to restore order to the institution.

Most of the cuts come by adjusting how states dole out federal heating assistance payments that can be tied to federal food aid. The changes will affect roughly 850,000 low-income households nationwide, according to CBO estimates.

Watching the vote Wednesday morning from the House Chamber was Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who will be responsible for guiding the legislation through the Senate later this week. Senate leaders expect a final vote to occur by Friday.

The bill revises how dairy farmers are protected in times of low prices with a new insurance program. It also establishes a system for the USDA purchase consumer-packaged dairy products during low-margin periods, which would likely stimulate demand. It repeals the direct payment program and strengthens risk management tools, and end outdated programs and consolidates duplicative ones, eliminating nearly 100 programs or authorizations. It would also helps farmers create jobs and provides certainty for the 16 million Americans working in agriculture.

The package further strengthens conservation efforts to protect land, water and wildlife for future generations; maintains food assistance for families while addressing fraud and misuse in SNAP; and reduces the deficit by billions of dollars in mandatory spending.

Lastly, the bill closes a loophole being used by some states to artificially inflate benefits for a small number of recipients for foodstamps. And it stops lottery winners from continuing to receive assistance, increases program efficiency, cracks down on trafficking, fraud and misuse, and invests in new pilot programs to help people secure employment through job training and other services.

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