WASHINGTON - Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow is fond of saying that the five-year farm policy bill is "not your father's farm bill."
There's some truth to that comment: While the core missions of farm bills — protecting farmers from bad times, conserving rural lands and funding food stamps and other nutrition programs — are unchanged, this farm bill takes some very different approaches.
A major change is in the farm safety net system. Direct payments, regardless of whether farmers plant a crop, are gone. They are being replaced by strengthened crop insurance and a new program to cover revenue losses. No longer will wealthy "farm managers" who don't live or work on their farms be eligible for payments.
The Senate is expected to pass the bill Thursday.