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U.S. Senate votes to limit amendments on farm bill, final vote expected Monday

WASHINGTON — The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance praised Senators June 6 for voting 75-22 to cut off debate on scores of amendments to the 2013 farm bill (S. 954), setting up the bill for a final vote on June 10.

The cloture procedure means the Senate has voted to limit debate on the bill after both parties could not reach a deal on which of the more than 100 amendments to bring up on the Senate floor. The Senate has scheduled a vote on an amendment to set up an Internet pilot project in rural areas followed by a final vote on the bill Monday, starting at 5:30 PM.

Before the vote, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) reminded colleagues on the Senate floor on the number of jobs dependent on agriculture and the food industry.

“I would ask colleagues once again to come together and vote yes on the 16 million jobs that agriculture and the food industry support,” she said. “Agriculture is truly one of the brightest spots of our economy. It is one of the few areas in which we actually have a trade surplus. The policies in this legislation are a big part of that,” she said.

The Alliance issued a statement June 6 after the cloture vote, applauding the Senate for moving the farm bill forward and noting the 75-22 vote sends a strong message that a bipartisan group of lawmakers support reauthorizing the five-year policy measure.

“The bill addresses many priorities critical to the specialty crop industry, and includes programs supporting essential research, market promotion and nutrition, and continues the support of specialty crops that was established in the 2008 farm bill,” the Alliance said in a press statement.

Key programs in the farm bill include the $70 million a year in specialty crop block grants and the $25 million that increases to $50 million under the Specialty Crop Research Initiative. Other business-friendly programs include funding for the Coordinated Plant Management Program, Market Access Program, Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, Section 32 crop purchases and the Department of Defense Fresh program.

The group said it also paves the way for the House of Representatives to move forward with its bill and work out differences between the two versions in conference committee by this fall.

The House is working on its own bill that could come to a floor vote as early this month.