Senate passage of the 2012 Farm Bill is evidence enough for some that bipartisanship is not dead in the nation’s capitol, at least according to members of the Senate upon passage of the legislation. The bill, S. 3240, which sets the nation’s policies on crop and livestock production, environmental conservation on agricultural lands, and emergency food assistance, received the bipartisan support of 64 Senators, and was opposed by 30 Republicans and five Democrats.

Overall, the bill would provide $969 billion over the next decade for agricultural programs while reportedly cutting the nation’s deficit by $23 billion. The legislation would consolidate and eliminate programs at the Department of Agriculture (USDA). Conservation programs are among the targets, with 23 existing programs proposed for consolidation into 13 programs.

The bill would also reauthorize several agricultural research programs at the USDA, including grants and fellowships for food and agricultural sciences education, animal health and disease research programs, and grants for international agricultural science and education.

S. 3240 would establish a non-profit Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. The foundation would solicit private funding matched with federal dollars to support agricultural research.

Also included in the bill is a provision that would require the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to assess barriers faced by institutions with limited capacity to successfully apply and compete for research grants.

Seventy amendments to the bill were considered during floor debate. Notably, an amendment by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) would require the White House to produce a report on how the $1.2 trillion in automatic budgets cuts scheduled to take place in January would affect government agencies. One amendment offered unsuccessfully by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would have granted states the authority to require labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

The House Agriculture Committee is expected to consider its version of the Farm Bill in July.


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