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Senate OKs farm bill

| Monday, June 10, 2013, 8:18 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Congress moved a step closer toward completing a sweeping five-year, $500 billion farm law on Monday, with the Senate approving legislation that would cut farm subsidies while expanding crop insurance.

The Senate voted 66-27 in favor of the package, which includes food stamps, rural economic development programs and international food aid. The attention shifts to the House, where the bill could reach the floor for debate as soon as next week.

Food-stamp funding is expected to be a key sticking point.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, confirmed the chamber would begin discussing the farm bill later this month and vowed a “vigorous and open debate.”

“If you have ideas on how to make the bill better, bring them forward,” Boehner told his colleagues.

Last year, the Senate passed a farm bill by a wide margin in June followed by approval of legislation in the House Agriculture Committee a month later. But GOP leaders in the House were reluctant to call for a vote on either bill because they did not think they had the 218 votes necessary to pass either plan before the November election. Congress failed to pass a bill and instead voted to extend the 2008 farm law until Sept. 30.

The Senate bill passed Monday would collectively reduce overall spending by about $24 billion over 10 years, compared to about $38 billion during the same period in a House measure. Much of the savings would be realized from the consolidation of conservation programs, reductions to the food stamp program and the elimination of subsidies by $17 billion.

Senators looking for further cuts in subsidy payments have been largely unsuccessful.

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