Senate passes $500 billion farm bill

Ohio’s senators split: Brown for, Portman against

The Columbus Dispatch

WASHINGTON — The Senate completed a five-year, half-trillion-dollar farm bill yesterday that cuts farm subsidies and land conservation spending by about $2 billion a year but largely protects sugar growers and 46 million food-stamp beneficiaries.

The 64-35 vote for passage defied political odds. Many inside and outside of Congress had predicted that legislation so expensive and so complicated would have little chance of advancing in an election year.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called it “one of the finest moments in the Senate in recent times in terms of how you pass a bill.”

The bipartisanship seen in the Senate may be less evident in the House, where conservatives are certain to resist the bill’s costs, particularly for food stamps. Food-stamp spending has doubled in the past five years, and beneficiaries have grown from by about 20 million to 46 million. The program’s budget is now about $80 billion a year, 80 percent of the spending in the bill.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, a member of the Agriculture Committee, voted for the bill while Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, opposed it.

Brown called the measure “the most significant reform of U.S. agriculture in decades — saving taxpayers $23 billion while investing in Ohio’s No. 1 industry.”

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