Woodward, Okla. — Critics said the bill would subsidize large corporate farms when farm country is in the middle of an economic boom. Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group that has long criticized farm subsidies, said the legislation would simply redirect subsidies and "needlessly cut nutrition and conservation programs designed to help the hungry and the environment."
Boehner criticized farm subsidies in the House bill, which are similar to those in the Senate bill, saying his "concerns about our country's farm programs are well known." Boehner, a former member of the agriculture panel, has voted against recent farm bills. But he acknowledged that the rest of the chamber might not agree with him.
"If you have ideas on how to make the bill better, bring them forward," Boehner said in a statement directed to his colleagues. "Let's have the debate, and let's vote on them."
The Senate bill also would:
- Overhaul dairy policy by creating a new insurance program for dairy producers, eliminating other dairy subsidies and price supports. The new policy includes a market stabilization program that could dictate production cuts when oversupply drives down prices. The program faced little opposition in the Senate but a similar overhaul in the House bill is expected to face resistance in that chamber, where Boehner last year called the new stabilization program "Soviet-style." He reiterated those concerns in his statement Monday, saying he will support an amendment on the floor to challenge the proposed policy.
- Make modest changes to the way international food aid is delivered, a much scaled-back version of an overhaul proposed by President Barack Obama earlier this year. Senators adopted an amendment that would slightly boost dollars to buy locally-grown food close to needy areas abroad. Currently, most food aid is grown in the United States and shipped to developing countries, an approach the Obama administration says is inefficient but that has support among farm-state members in Congress.
- Consolidate programs to protect environmentally-sensitive land and reduce spending on those programs.
- Expand Agriculture Department efforts to prevent illegal trafficking of food stamp benefits.