By Forrest Saunders, Multimedia Journalist - email
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -
About every five years Congress passes a new farm and food bill. But this time around, it's a bill of a different kind, centered on reform.
The current farm bill is up in September. What the US Senate passed Thursday afternoon could replace it.
This version spends $500 billion over five years, but it'll trim more than $23 billion off the deficit in 10 years. Most of those savings, coming from the elimination of direct cash payments to farmers. Even farmland Senators call it needed reform.
"I have to tell you, I like the bill. I was very pleased to vote 'yes.' I do think it's a step in the right direction," said Sen. Mike Johanns (R) Nebraska.
A couple of other Senators respond in statements. Nebraska's Democrat, Ben Nelson, said "Its budget minded reforms... will benefit Nebraska's more than 47,000 farms, while strengthening the safety net for tough times."
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said, "These changes are good for farmers and taxpayers."
On the farm, a different scene for many. The more than one million who use the program, such as Hans Schmidt, would lose the thousands they get to manage the risk of farming.
"35,000 a year," said Schmidt.
Opponents warn the plan's proposed savings won't last. You see, in place of checks, the new bill pushes new crop insurance programs. The worry is, in a bad crop year, taxpayers are on the line for a big bill. Supporters disagree.
"These are real cuts. Crop insurance makes sense. It's like any other insurance. It's there when you have a loss," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) Michigan.
If it's insurance programs instead of cash, Hans says he's okay with his checks, checking-out... perhaps helping his nation as a whole.
"I'd be happy to give up those subsidies if it's going to help get our country's fiscal responsibilities back in order," said Schmidt.
The Senate passed the bill 64 to 35.
Its next stop: the U.S. House of Representatives. From there, they'll have to reconcile any changes before sending a bill to the President.
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