UPDATE: By an 87-13 vote, the U.S. Senate approved the new farm bill on Tuesday, with Arkansas's two Republican senators split on the measure. Sen. John Boozman supported the bill, while Sen. Tom Cotton was among 12 members of his party voting against it.
The bill now advances to the House. The legislation allocates billions of dollars in sibsidies to farmers and guides national policies for the next five years.
EARLIER REPORT: After an impasse that stretched on for months, a final version of the farm bill has been agreed to in Congress. The U.S. House and Senate are expected to vote on the compromise bill in the coming days.
On Monday night the Farm Bill Conference Report was released. Republican Senator John Boozman of Arkansas, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee and is a farm bill conferee, says getting this completed is vital for the state.
On reaching an agreement:
SEN. JOHN BOOZMAN: "I’m very pleased that we got something accomplished and getting the conference report out now I feel is so important. It’s [agriculture] 25 percent of the GDP in Arkansas, but when you get out of our cities, then in rural Arkansas, it’s probably 85 or 90 percent of the economy, so it’s all about our farm community, our ranchers and farmers, but also about rural America. So I think it was a good compromise. I think it’s something that will provide a lot of stability for our farmers and ranchers so that now with the next growing season coming up on us very soon, they can go to the bank, whoever they barrow their money from and put their crop in and do that with a lot less hassle than it would be if we had the uncertainty of not having a farm bill."
In a statement, Boozman praised several members of the agriculture committee for "their diligence to ensure that harmful policy changes were excluded from the final conference report." What was Boozman concerned about?
BOOZMAN: "There’s a real concern about narrowing the definition of a family farm down to where it would make it very, very difficult. Farms have gotten bigger and as a result more people are involved. We were actually able to take that definition, make it a little greater so that we could include nephews and cousins nieces, things like that, but we really did have real concern that as you narrowed it down, then you’d have lots of family farms and lots of individuals that would have to be in a situation where would have to do a lot more paperwork and it would be a lot more hassle for them."
A controversial element from House Republicans called for a stricter work requirement for recipients of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. That ended up being dropped, through some anti-fraud measures are included in the bill.
BOOZMAN: "What we all want is to make the benefit, the dollars that go in to helping those in need are actually going to the people that are deserving. There are situations where that’s not always the case and the work requirements were a way to help insure that those that actually needed help were the ones getting it. Because of the fact that we need 6o votes in the Senate, that we not agreed to."