A sweeping new farm bill that includes big cuts in subsidies but expands the costly crop insurance program cleared the U.S. Senate on Thursday, but the bill faces an uncertain future with time running out on the legislative calendar.
The $498 billion bill would save $23.6 billion with big cuts in farm subsidies over the next 10 years. It would also enshrine a new crop insurance program that has been criticized for being too generous to farmers and private insurance companies.
Senate passage was a big step toward enacting a farm bill this year, but the House was not expected to begin work on its version until July. Analysts say election-year pressures are likely to delay the farm bill into later in the year or early 2013.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged Congress to keep the bill moving forward.
"Swift action is needed so that American farmers and ranchers and our rural communities have the certainty they need to continue strengthening the rural and national economy," Vilsack said in a statement.
(Reporting By Russ Blinch; editing by Jim Marshall)