Food stamps, crop subsidies among Senate farm bill amendments
A lunch meal portion waits at the Part of the Solution (POTS) soup kitchen (Shannon Stapleton, Reuters / June 20, 2012)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Proposals to avert bigger cuts in food stamps and reduce certain crop subsidies are among more than 70 amendments the U.S. Senate will consider this week to a massive farm bill.
Senate leaders struck a bipartisan deal late on Monday to clear the way for debate and votes on the stalled legislation beginning on Tuesday, a Democratic aide said.
The U.S. farm law covers everything from food stamps to crop subsidies to soil erosion - and several other hot-button issues in an election year.
Negotiators in the Democratic-led Senate whittled the number of amendments in the 10-year bill from roughly 300 to 73.
A number of amendments are meant to put lawmakers on the record on hot-button spending issues in an election year. They include debt reduction, funding for food stamps, support for subsidies and pushing spending back to 2008 levels.
One unrelated, politically charged proposal by Republican Marco Rubio of Florida would allow businesses to give merit-based raises and bonuses to union workers without first getting the consent of labor leaders.
Democrats assert Republicans are waging war on unions, while supporters of Rubio's proposal and others like it say some unions are too powerful and have, in certain cases, infringed on the rights of business.
Analysts say the odds are slim Congress will enact a new farm law before the current one expires on September 30. Election-year and budget-cutting pressures have slowed action.
The Senate bill as written would cut $4 billion from the food stamp program but Republicans want larger reductions.
The Senate also would cut crop subsidies by $13 billion over 10 years and environmental conservation by $6 billion.
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)