By Mitt Walker and Jeff Helms
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 28 — The U.S. Senate today approved its version of the farm bill by a vote of 86-11. Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Doug Jones, D-Ala., voted in favor of the legislation, which would reauthorize the majority of farm and nutrition programs in the U.S. for another five years.
“Senators Shelby and Jones should be commended for their support of Alabama farmers. With the national farm economy struggling, getting a farm bill done on time is critical,” said Alabama Farmers Federation Director of National Legislative Programs Mitt Walker. “Today’s vote keeps the finish line in sight and provides an opportunity to conference the bill with the legislation approved by the House last week.”
Farm bill discussions slowed to a crawl Wednesday evening after Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., objected to consideration of the bill over concerns related to trade promotion activities in Cuba. However, by mid-afternoon Thursday, a vote was taken on an amendment to change the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The amendment was tabled by a vote of 68-30, essentially killing the proposal.
The only other amendment to receive a recorded vote was brought by Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Cory Booker, D-N.J. Walker said it would have imposed overly restrictive changes to the oversight of producer-funded checkoff programs. The amendment, which was strongly opposed by the Federation, failed by a vote of 38-57. Both Alabama senators voted against the measure.
Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., were united in their efforts to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate — a stark contrast to the process in the House of Representatives where the farm bill narrowly passed with only Republican support.
It is expected both chambers will vote in the upcoming weeks to conference the House and Senate bills, paving the way for a final vote later this year.