Congress begins uphill battle to pass farm bill

By JIM ABRAMS | April 20, 2012 | 1:35 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate will begin laying the groundwork on a $1 trillion farm and food bill that would end direct payments and redesign safety nets that help farmers weather hard times. But with the bad political climate now gripping Washington, not many are predicting they'll see a bill produced this year.

The current five-year bill expires at the end of September and the Senate's agriculture committee is working on a new bill that would revise subsidy and conservation programs while achieving some deficit reduction.

But before getting a bill to the president, lawmakers must satisfy multiple constituents and narrow the gap between Senate Democrats and House Republicans, who are calling for major cuts in the food stamp program that comprises some 80 percent of the bill's spending.