Source: CQ Roll Call

It took longer than any of the negotiators or stakeholders would have hoped, but at the end of the day, the farm bill coalition held together.

The Senate cleared the conference report reauthorizing agriculture and nutrition programs for five years on a 68-32 vote Tuesday.

Assuming the entire bill makes it to President Barack Obama’s desk in one piece — and longtime farm bill observers know even that can’t be assured, since the 2008 farm bill showed up at the White House with a chunk missing — the work of Congress is done for this round, and a new farm policy will be in effect for the next five years, providing much-needed certainty for producers.

Conferees on both sides of the aisle praised the product before Monday evening’s procedural vote, 72-22, to limit debate on the conference report.

The measure, which scores as costing nearly $1 trillion, would save about $23 billion over the next decade. It avoids the House’s deeper cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps. Perhaps even more importantly, it maintains the traditional ties between nutrition programs and farm supports.

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Editor's Note: Even before CQ Roll Call and major news services had issued their reports, Food Safety Magazine received the following announcement from the United Fresh Produce Association (United Fresh):

The United Fresh Produce Association hailed the long-awaited passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill) as the measure crossed the final legislative hurdle when the Senate approved the Farm Bill conference report today by a vote of 68 - 32.

The bill, on which Congress started having hearings in 2010, provides nearly $4 billion in funding for programs that benefit specialty crop production, including fresh produce. The funding amounts and policies encompassed in the bill reflect specialty crop priorities for block grants, research, pest and disease mitigation, nutrition and trade. The federal commitment to specialty crop needs included in the bill is unprecedented and builds on the momentum begun under the 2008 Farm Bill.

“Everybody seems to agree that in the history of Farm Bill reauthorizations, this has been the most challenging and has taken the longest,” said Robert Guenther, United Fresh’s senior vice president for public policy. “But even though the overall bill took many unexpected twists and turns, one thing was consistent: strong, bipartisan support in the House and Senate for fresh fruit and vegetable policies. Throughout the long process, Farm Bill programs for fruits and vegetables were maintained or strengthened. This is a clear sign that policymakers recognize the importance of our industry to the nutritional well-being of all Americans and to the overall U.S. economy. We’ll continue to work with lawmakers to ensure that America’s fruit and vegetable providers operate under government policies that allow them to be as innovative as they can be to enhance their competitiveness and ability to meet America’s nutritional needs.”

The Farm Bill will now be sent to the President for his expected signature.