Farm Bill Dodges Its First Bullet

Senators reach bipartisan agreement on early, but crucial step in the 2012 farm bill.


Lawmakers came to a surprising late-night agreement on the 2012 farm bill Monday.

Senators reached a bipartisan compromise over how to proceed with the crucial piece of legislation farmers and agricultural leaders depend on to run their businesses and laid the groundwork to pass the bill out of the Senate in just a few days. [Farm Bill Fight Turns to Food Stamps.]

Legislators still have a long ways to go, but senators struck an initial consent agreement on the bill and will begin debating just over 70 amendments in the upcoming days, a fraction of the hundreds originally proposed.

Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow applauded her colleagues Monday saying "the bill was developed through bipartisan collaboration."

The clock is ticking as funding for the current farm bill runs out in September.

"My colleagues on both sides of the aisle understand we must act as soon as possible to give farmers the certainty they need to keep growing the economy," Stabenow said in a statement. "This farm bill is unlike any other before it—it cuts spending, ends subsidies, improves accountability and strengthens healthy food systems. We are now closer than ever to achieving real reform in America's agricultural policy."

But while the farm bill managed to overcome its first hurdle, fights over the bill's more than $80 billion in food assistance programs, the U.S. sugar program and a slew of unrelated amendments are sure to spur heated debate on the senate floor. [Farm Bill Fight to Cut Sugar Subsidies.]

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the 1,000-page bill will cost taxpayers $969 billion between 2013 and 2022, but Stabenow has continued to tout her committee's hard work in shaving $23.6 billion "by streamlining and consolidating programs and ending unnecessary farm subsidies."