U.S. Senate passes bill to revamp ag policies

A bill extending and reforming U.S. agricultural programs cleared a key legislative hurdle Thursday as the Senate approved a five-year, half-trillion-dollar farm bill by a vote of 64 to 35.

The Senate appeared to cast aside partisan politics to pass bill, which will help low-income Americans buy food and compensate U.S. farmers for crop losses.

“The Agriculture Reform Bill is about standing up for our nation’s farmers, our small businesses, our manufacturers, our exporters and others, whose livelihood depends on us getting the policy right,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, who spoke moments before the vote. “This represents significant reform. It cuts subsidies. It cuts the deficit. It creates jobs.”

​​The bill, which seeks to trim costs from an $80 billion-a-year program that helps 46 million poor Americans buy food, also replaces a subsidy program that pays some farmers — regardless of whether they plant crops — with a new initiative designed to assist farmers who suffer losses on crops actually planted.

U.S. farm subsidies have been a persistent irritant to many other agriculture-exporting nations, such as Brazil, that argue the payments are an unfair trade barrier and harm developing economies.

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