The long-tortured farm bill cleared Congress Tuesday, ending a two year struggle that split the old farm-food coalition as never before and dramatized the growing isolation of agriculture and rural America in an ever more urban House.
Written off as dead just months ago, the giant five-year measure won final approval from the Senate on a 68-32 roll call and goes next to President Barack Obama for his signature.
Throughout the whole drama, Obama has remained remarkably detached, an almost bit player. But Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and his deputy Krysta Harden will move to center stage now as they try to put the pieces in place before spring plantings, just weeks away in some regions of the South.
“Today’s action will allow the proud men and women who feed millions around the world to invest confidently in the future,” Vilsack said in a statement released after the Senate vote. “This legislation is important to the entire nation.”
Indeed, whether it is cows, cotton or corn, the bill represents a landmark rewrite of commodity programs coupled with what proved in the end to be bipartisan reforms in the food stamp program.