Farm bill makes for strange bedfellows as Senate prepares vote - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Farm bill makes for strange bedfellows as Senate prepares to vote

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WKOW) -- The U.S. Senate is expected to vote next week on a new five-year farm bill that passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

It is creating some strange bedfellows in Wisconsin, splitting the state's congressional delegation right down the middle.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI-5) joined the state's three House Democrats in voting against the bill, while the four other House Republicans voted for it.

And while its chances in the Senate look promising overall, its hard to tell where Wisconsin's two senators stand on it right now.

Those who support the bill cite $23 billion in taxpayer savings when compared to the previous farm bill that expired in 2012.

But those who are opposed to the bill say those savings aren't the full story.

"It takes food away from hungry people in order to maintain subsidies to wealthy people," said Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-3), who has been a very vocal critic of the bill.

Congressman Kind is referring to the bill's $8.6 billion cut to the nation's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which funds Wisconsin's FoodShare program for low-income families.  Rep. Kind says the cut makes no sense.

"Especially in light of a recent report that showed that we're sending hundreds of millions of tax dollars every year to multi-billionaires, who don't even farm.  They're just landowners," said Rep. Kind.

"Probably the biggest issue has been the big debate over nutrition programs contained in the bill.  And I'm a strong supporter of a nutrition safety net in our country," said Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), who is still studying the bill.

But Sen. Baldwin tells 27 News that if she is satisfied that those food assistance cuts don't go too far, the bill will have her support.

"I pushed for a number of things to be contained in the final version, especially on behalf of our dairy farmers here in the State of Wisconsin.  (I) had victories on a lot of those specific issues for Wisconsin and am pleased with that," said Sen. Baldwin.

Meanwhile, Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) expressed initial criticism of the bill earlier this week, because House members had just 48 hours to read it before making their vote.

But like Sen. Baldwin, Johnson has not indicated how he will ultimately vote.

Rep. Kind also criticized the way the final version of the bill was hammered out.

"This farm bill was negotiated behind closed doors.  The conferees, those who were supposed to meet and work out the differences met just once, for opening statements, and that was it," said Rep. Kind.

Minnesota's congressional delegation has similar divisions.  Both Democrats and Republicans in the House voted for and against it.  But Minnesota's two Democratic Senators have already said they will support the legislation.

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