Sen. Deb Fischer on Tuesday hailed Senate passage of a new farm bill that protects crop insurance while containing her proposal to close gaps in broadband connectivity across farm and ranch country.
Nebraska Appleseed praised reauthorization of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that provides so-called food stamp assistance for low-income families and individuals.
But the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons expressed disappointment that the new bill did not cap payments to the largest farms and thereby address ongoing consolidation in agriculture.
"We are deeply disappointed that Congress did not step up to fix provisions that drive farm consolidation and funnel taxpayer dollars to the largest operations," Center for Rural Affairs policy manager Anna Johnson said.
Fischer, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said she was pleased by the bipartisan 87-13 Senate vote of approval.
"In a time of uncertainty for farm country, this bill is going to bring confidence, stability and predictability to our families who feed our hungry world," Fischer said.
The legislation sets federal agricultural and food policy for five years and provides more than $400 billion in farm subsidies, conservation programs and food aid for the poor, the Associated Press reported. It reauthorizes crop insurance and conservation programs and funds trade programs, bioenergy production and organic farming research. It also reduces the cost for struggling dairy producers to sign up for support programs and legalizes the cultivation of industrial hemp.
One thing the bill doesn't have: tighter work requirements for food stamp recipients, a provision of the House bill that became a major sticking point during negotiations.
James Goddard, director of the economic justice program at Nebraska Appleseed, said the SNAP program helps about 176,000 Nebraskans, 74 percent of whom are children.
The Native Farm Bill Coalition praised the legislation for acknowledging tribal sovereignty and ensuring parity for tribal governments and Native producers.
Meanwhile, Rep. Adrian Smith said he is pleased that the bill "continues our commitment to a strong crop insurance program and creates a vaccine bank to help contain any future incidents of foot and mouth disease."
Smith, who represents most of rural Nebraska, said he looks forward to supporting the bill in the House, where the legislation may encounter some opposition centered on provisions in the food stamp program.