Does last week’s agreement on a five-year Farm Bill mean Congress is finally poised to shed the partisan gridlock that has defined it in recent years?
Not so fast.
Still, most Minnesota lawmakers are lauding the Farm Bill deal, calling it one small sign that federal lawmakers can overcome their differences to conduct the nation’s business.
The Farm Bill appears to be headed to President Barack Obama’s desk after passing the House Wednesday. A Senate vote could come this week.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., who served on the conference committee that negotiated the Farm Bill agreement, clearly is delighted a bipartisan deal has been reached after years of failed attempts.
“We finally got something done here,” Klobuchar said.
Minnesota’s U.S. senators, Klobuchar and Al Franken, both are strong supporters of the bill. It ends direct payments to farmers in favor of a more robust crop insurance program, establishes a new safety net for dairy producers and cuts funding for food stamps, albeit much less deeply than congressional Republicans wanted.
The St. Cloud area’s representative, Michele Bachmann, was among a minority of House members to oppose the Farm Bill in Wednesday’s vote. Minnesota’s other Republican House members, John Kline and Erik Paulsen, voted for the bill.
Bachmann, R-Stillwater, is part of a cadre of GOP lawmakers that sought steep cuts to food stamps, which are part of this Farm Bill and have been part of its predecessors. The Farm Bill that passed the House includes $800 million in annual cuts to food stamps, or about a 1-percent cut. That’s compared to the 5-percent cut sought by House Republicans.
Bachmann told the Times in an email statement that she voted against the Farm Bill in part because she thinks agricultural policy and food stamps should be addressed in separate bills.
“Farmers need and deserve a farm bill with real reforms, but this bill in its current form is not it,” Bachmann said.
In a conference call with reporters last week, Franken praised the Farm Bill. Franken said the key point Minnesota farmers have made to him is they need the certainty it provides.
“Farmers across Minnesota have told me repeatedly that they not only wanted a Farm Bill, but that they needed one,” Franken said. “I’m thrilled that we finally finished the job.”
Keep up with Central Minnesota politics in The Political Quarry, www.sctimes.com/politicalquarry. Follow Mark Sommerhauser on Twitter @msommerhauser.