The Senate on Tuesday began plowing through 73 amendments to a $500 billion bill that will set farm policy and fund the food stamp program over the next five years. One of its first votes was to reject a proposal to trim food stamp spending.
The farm bill, one of the last major pieces of legislation that could clear Congress before the election, carries out major changes to the federal safety net for farmers, replacing their direct payments, even when they don't plant crops, with greater emphasis on crop insurance and a new program to protect farmers from revenue losses.
The Senate is expected to vote on all the amendments and pass the bill by the end of the week. It then goes to the House, where it could run into resistance from fiscal conservatives.
An early amendment in the Senate dealt with the price of the food stamp program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which now totals $80 billion a year, about 80 percent of the bill's spending. Food stamp rolls have doubled over the last eight years to 46 million people, driven by the recession.