By a decisive margin, the U.S. Senate has taken up the 2012 farm bill for debate.
With a vote of 90 to 8, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 cleared a procedural hurdle June 7 and will be considered for passage by the Senate over the next week.
“The 2008 Farm Bill is set to expire at the end of September — we must pass this commonsense bill immediately to give farmers the certainty they need to continue growing the economy,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said in a news release.
The bill saves money for taxpayers, said Sen. Pat Roberts, ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
“Simply put, this bill is commonsense reform and needs to be approved now to provide certainty for our farmers and ranchers to make planning decisions and to help our economic recovery,” Roberts said in a news release.
The full list of amendments expected to be offered for debate was not yet complete, said Kam Quarles, director of legislative affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based McDermott Will & Emery law firm.
One amendment, offered by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., would change the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for schools to allow processed produce, including frozen, canned and dried.
Quarles said voting on farm bill amendments could occur by June 14.
Quarles said the House and Senate must move quickly on the farm bill.
“The House has less than 40 legislative days left before the election, and fewer than that before expiration of the farm bill,” Quarles said June 7. “There is not a lot of time to get this done.”
The White House issued a statement June 7 in support of Senate passage of the farm bill, citing elimination of direct payments, tightening payment and eligibility requirements and increasing access to healthy, affordable food as key elements.
“We are pleased today on the strong bipartisan vote to move forward considering 2012 farm bill,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association. “We strongly support the bill brought forward by the Senate Agriculture Committee and urge the Senate to swiftly act on this bill.”