News Local/State

House Passes Compromise Farm Bill


The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to pass a five-year farm bill.

The $100 billion-a-year measure included small cuts to the food stamps program, and preserved some farm subsidies. The vote in the House was 251-166.

The bill now heads to the Senate, which is expected to approve it. President Obama is expected to sign the measure into law.

Here's more from The Associated Press:

"The measure had solid backing from the House GOP leadership, even though it makes smaller cuts to food stamps than they would have liked. The bill would cut about $800 million a year from the $80 billion-a-year program, or around 1 percent. The House had sought a 5 percent cut.

"The legislation would continue to heavily subsidize major crops while eliminating some subsidies and shifting them toward more politically defensible insurance programs."

As Morning Edition reported on Tuesday, lawmakers reached a deal this week on the measure after a two-year stall.

David Wallbank of Bloomberg News told NPR's Steve Inskeep that the divide over the issue pit Republicans, who wanted to see big changes to the food stamp program, against Democrats, who wanted to preserve it.

The compromise bill cuts $8 billion from the food stamps program — a 1 percent reduction.

The other big divide was over agriculture subsidies, which farm groups were trying to preserve even as, in Wallbank's words, "we were eliminating direct payments to farmers."

Wallbank described the new system that's been put into place for farmers.

"Well, the new system is more of an insurance-based safety net. There are some target prices set up in there, but mainly it's an insurance-based system that's designed to, in bad years, help farmers get through them. And it's a much more complex safety net. It's harder to describe than just checks that are going out.

"And that's honestly part of the complication. That's part of why it took so long, is because it's very hard to design a program that works for people growing peanuts in Georgia just as well as it works for people growing corn in Minnesota."

Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis of Taylorville praised the House passage.  

"Today the House took the opportunity to pass a bipartisan farm bill that provides 5 years of certainty to rural America, strenghens crop insurance as the key risk management tool for our farmers, and cuts $23 billion in spending," said Davis, a 13th District Republican, in a statement.  "This bill also gives us an opportunity to push stronger regulatory reforms with the EPA and contains the first reforms to the SNAP program since 1996."

Other Illinois U.S. House members backing the measure included Republicans John Shimkus of Collinsville, Aaron Schock of Peoria, and Adam Kinzinger of Channahon.

Those from the state opposing the farm bill included Congressmen Luis Gutierrez, Mike Quigley, and Jan Schakowsky, all Democrats. 

Chicago Democrat Bobby Rush did not vote.