Congress has given its final approval to a sweeping five-year farm bill that provides food for the needy and subsidies for farmers. Ending years of political battles, the Senate today sent the measure to President Obama for his signature with a 68-32 vote. The bill provides a financial cushion for farmers who face unpredictable weather and market conditions, but the bulk of its nearly $100-billion-a-year cost is for the food-stamp program, which aids 1 in 7 Americans.
House Republicans had hoped to trim the bill's costs, pointing to a booming agriculture sector and saying the now $80 billion-a-year food stamp program has spiraled out of control. Partisan disagreements stalled the bill for about three years, but conservatives were eventually outnumbered as the Democratic Senate, the White House, and a bipartisan coalition of farm-state lawmakers pushed to get the bill done. The final compromise would get rid of controversial subsidies known as direct payments, which are paid to farmers whether they farm or not. But most of that program's $4.5 billion annual cost was redirected into new, more politically defensible subsidies that would kick in when a farmer has losses. The food-stamp program was cut about 1%; the House had pushed for five times that much. CNN breaks down five ways the bill will affect Americans. (Read more farm bill stories.)