Efforts to reform U.S. agricultural policy advanced with Senate passage of S. 954, the “Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013.” The ‘Farm Bill’, as it is commonly known, passed the Senate on 10 June with a bipartisan vote of 66-27.

The legislation authorizes $955 billion over five years for farm subsidy, conservation, rural energy, and nutrition assistance programs. This spending level is about $18 billion less over the next decade than current policy, if sequestration is taken into account. Many of the policies outlined in S. 954 are similar to the legislation passed by the Senate last year; that bill ultimately stalled in the House and was not enacted into law.

S. 954 would set funding levels for a multitude of agricultural research programs. Fifty million dollars would be devoted to a new integrated research initiative on farm animals. Competitive grants for international science and education programs would receive $5 million a year. The National Genetics Resources Program would receive $1 million a year for five years. Agriculture biosecurity grants would be funded at $5 million a year.

A new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research would be established to award research grants, identify agricultural research needs, facilitate technology transfer, and train the next generation of scientists. The non-profit foundation would solicit private funding to support agricultural research, and would be endowed with $200 million from the federal government.

Other research initiatives are proposed for removal from the current farm bill, including deer tick ecology, wetlands use research, genetically modified agriculture products research, and land use management research.

During the Senate’s consideration of the bill, more than 250 amendments were filed, but Senators voted on only 15 amendments. Among the amendments not considered was a provision offered by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would have ordered a study of the impacts of extreme weather and climate change on agriculture in the United States. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) offered an amendment that would have reaffirmed the scientific basis of and human contributions to climate change. The amendment also outlined that efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change are “economically prudent” and “in the best security and fiscal interests” of the nation.

The House of Representatives is considering its own version of the farm bill. The chamber will consider the legislation this week.

 


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