This vote was on whether to allow an amendment by Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that would increase the amount provided for Farm Service Agency salaries and expenses by $350 million. It was offered to the bill that funds agriculture spending in fiscal 2010.
Sanders said small dairy farmers across the country are in crisis. He said the economic downturn has severely harmed dairy farmers, causing their prices to plummet more than 41 percent. His amendment would allow the federal government to pay more to take surplus dairy products off the market.
“The reality of what that means is that farmers today, for every gallon of milk they are producing, are losing money. It is not that they are making a little bit, they are losing money. What we are seeing, not just in the Northeast, not just in the Midwest, not just in the Southeast, not just in the West, but all over this country, are family farmers going out of business, plunging their rural economies and their communities into depression-type economics,” Sanders said.
Sam Brownback, R-Kan., opposed the amendment as unworkable.
“Unfortunately, even if we could agree that additional funding was necessary, the amendment was put in such a way that it cannot work; it is not drafted appropriately. There is no mechanism to move the funding from the FSA salaries and expenses account to the Dairy Product Price Support Program,” he said. He then made a parliamentary motion that the amendment be defeated because it violates the Senate’s rules on spending. Sanders then made a separate motion that the rules be waived for his amendment.
By a vote of 60-37, Sanders’ motion was adopted. All but one Democrat present voted for the motion. All but four Republicans present voted against the motion. The end result is that the motion to waive the rules carried, Brownback’s parliamentary maneuver failed, and Sanders’ amendment to allow the government to pay more to purchase surplus dairy products from the market was subsequently adopted by voice vote.