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Federal Farm Bill up in the air

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Albany/HV: Federal Farm Bill up in the air
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One of the last major spending bills will soon be tackled by Congress and many are concerned it will suffer the fate of previous bills and be tangled up in the year's partisan gamesmanship. YNN's Washington, D.C. reporter Erin Billups has an update on the future of the Farm Bill.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The House and Senate Agriculture Committees hope to pass a five year spending plan this year, but given the focus on deficit reduction and election year politics, it will be a heavy lift.

The Budget Control Act cuts $23 billion off the top and it seems conservative House members want to trim even more. Democrats say the Paul Ryan budget republicans passed last week would cut another $10 billion.

"Paul put some Ideas out there with the Ryan budget that we supported," said New York 29th District Representative Tom Reed.

Dairy farmers could see a change in the MILC program, their safety net for when domestic milk prices fall below a specified level. And the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, could also be cut, something New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Ag Committee, is fighting against.

"It makes a difference for these families in risk. We should never have a hungry child in America. We should never accept that. We should not cut any funding to our food stamp program," Gillibrand said.
A House GOP aide, though, says SNAP takes up about 80 percent of spending in the Farm Bill and there's plenty of fraud, abuse and inefficiencies that can be eliminated without compromising the integrity program.

"You look in people's eyes and you see the real concern and I empathize with that, but this should be sending an alarm to all of us in America that this fiscal crisis is real," Reed said.

Meanwhile, Gillibrand is also trying to add another provision to the Farm Bill that would expand broadband access in rural communities. And while she's optimistic she can get it included in the Senate bill, the House is another story.

Gillibrand said, "Having access to internet is fundamental for opportunity, education and for job creation."

The Senate hopes to move the Farm Bill out of committee by the end of the month. House aides say the Ag Committee is waiting to see if the upper house can get bi-partisan support for the bill, which needs to be re-authorized by September 30th.

New York's Senior Senator says so far things are looking good in the Senate.

"They put together a compromise that I think has a good chance of passing," Senator Charles Schumer said.

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