Senate passes farm bill

Even on hyper-partisan Capitol Hill, everybody’s gotta eat.

Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate were able to iron out their differences Thursday and passed their version of the farm bill, huge legislation that contains almost $1 trillion in spending over the next 10 years.

As the Washington Post wrote Wednesday, “To the purported short­list of certainties in life — death and taxes — add large, bipartisan support in the Senate for the farm bill.” That proved prophetic on the Hill Thursday, as the Senate passed the bill 64-35. That’s an incredible final score in a year that has so often seen Washington deadlocked.

As the New York Times’ Ron Nixon writes, the farm bill may have cracked some of the Senate’s steep partisan divide.

Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas and the ranking member on the committee, called the legislation the best bill possible. “It shows what can happen if we break the logjam of partisanship and work together to get something done,” Mr. Roberts said.

If made law, the bill would make major changes to bedrock farm policies, as DTN’s Chris Clayton writes. They’re farm-wonky changes, but important.

The bill makes dramatic changes to the farm-program safety net. The lion's share of net savings, $19.8 billion, comes from an overhaul of commodity programs that end direct payments, the counter-cyclical program and Average Crop Revenue Election program, or ACRE.

Of course, this isn’t the last time you’ll hear about the farm bill. Farm bill wrangling is nowhere near complete, as the Times notes.

The House has not produced its own farm bill, and any proposed legislation could face resistance from fiscal conservatives and lawmakers aligned with the Tea Party who want greater cuts in farm programs and food stamps. The House was expected to begin work on its own bill next week, but the majority whip, Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, asked the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday to delay work on the bill until July 11.

The Senate’s surprising consensus represents a big step for farm bill legislation, but following legislation from a bill to a law is more like watching a marathon than a sprint.