WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate hopes to pass a new, trimmed-down five-year Farm Bill within the next few weeks, but many are unhappy with new formulas in the bill, which could equal less cash for North Carolina farmers.
The senate is still working its way through 250 proposed amendments to the $970 billion agriculture spending plan. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., has two amendments – one that would reduce burdensome pesticide regulations for farmers and another that would make it easier for farmers to understand some changes in the bill; changes that have many, especially the state's peanut farmers, up in arms.
Instead of relieving the direct payments from Washington, many see as a safety net during tough times, the Farm Bill offers crop insurance.
"I want to be sure that there's a safety net,” Hagan said. “We're working on language right now to help the peanut farmers in North Carolina."
While subsidies for peanuts, rice and other crops would be pulled, investment in corn and soybeans -- used for biofuel and manufacturing – would increase.
"Bio-based manufacturing is rapidly becoming a critical component of our new economy," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the Senate Agriculture Committee chair.
Hagan says increased investment in biofuels and manufacturing will be a good thing for North Carolina.
"North Carolina is going to be a huge benefactor of legislation having to do with advanced manufacturing, with biofuels," she said.
Even with its $23 billion in cuts and wide bipartisan support, there are some who say the bill is still chock full of wasteful spending.
"It is far, far from the kind of legislation that we owe the American people," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said.
Hagan says she hopes the partisanship common during an election year doesn't keep the bill off the Senate floor.
"Once we get in for a final vote, there will be a huge number of bipartisan votes for the Farm Bill," said Hagan.
The senate hopes to pass its Farm Bill in the next two weeks.