The Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday passed the massive farm bill by a 20-1 vote and overcame an attempt to tighten subsidy payments to farmers.
The draft farm bill, officially known as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, contains more than 1,000 pages and covers everything from farm subsidies and food stamps to trade and rural development policy. Farmer assistance includes commodity payment programs, as well as subsidized crop insurance.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, cast the sole "no" vote, because his amendment to limit subsidy payments wasn't added to the proposed bill. Grassley wants to tighten the federal payments to focus on family-size farm operations.
Earlier in the panel's meeting, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pledged that the full Senate will vote on the entire 2018 farm bill before the July 4 recess. McConnell also said he's "hopeful the House will get to theirs, but it will probably look a little different than ours."
The House failed to pass a farm bill last month due to an immigration squabble among Republicans.
A House vote soon "would give us a chance to get into conference and actually make a law here," said McConnell.
McConnell also made a case during Wednesday's Senate Agriculture Committee meeting for supporting his hemp legalization legislation. McConnell said farmers in his home state of Kentucky and across the nation are interested in an industrial hemp industry.
According to McConnell, hemp farming in Kentucky can help replace some of the revenue from falling tobacco demand.
"I know there are farming communities all over the country who are interested in this," said McConnell. "Mine are particularly interested in it, and the reason for that is — as all of you know — our No. 1 cash crop used to be something that's really not good for you: tobacco. And that has declined significantly, as it should, given the public health concerns.
In particular, the GOP leader said, "Younger farmers in my state are particularly interested in going in this direction. We have a lot of people in my state who are extremely enthusiastic about the possibilities. As we all know, hemp is very diversified."