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SENATE BACKS FARM BILL, BUT TOUGHER ROAD SEEN IN HOUSE

New York Times

WASHINGTON - The Senate on Thursday approved a sweeping farm bill that would cost nearly $1 trillion over the next 10 years, financing dozens of price support and crop insurance programs for farmers and food assistance for low-income families.

The bill passed with bipartisan support, 64-35. It now goes to the House where it faces a much tougher road because conservative lawmakers want to make deeper cuts in the food stamp program, which serves about45 million Americans.

Although the bill is known as the farm bill, the majority of the spending, about $80 billion a year, goes to the food stamp program. The Senate bill would cut a total of $23.6 billion from current spending levels, including about $4.5 billion from food stamps, but senators rejected several proposals that would have made even deeper cuts.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said savings from the food stamp program would come mainly from changes including banning lottery winners from getting assistance.

The House Republican budget introduced earlier this year by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would reduce food stamp spending by about $134 billion in the next decade and turn the program into block grants for the states.

Although the Senate bill makes significant changes to some farm programs and eliminates or consolidates others, it leaves in place several Depression-era programs like supports for U.S. sugar growers that set prices and limit imports.

The bill eliminates about $5 billion a year in direct payments that have been given to farmers and farmland owners, whether or not they grew crops. It makes the highly subsidized crop insurance program the primary safety net when crop prices drop.

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