PILT money for Utah saved in farm bill as Hatch votes yes, Lee no
Washington • Payments to local government based on federal lands will continue to flow after the Senate gave final approval to a farm bill Tuesday.
That bill included more than $410 million for the payment-in-lieu of taxes program, known as PILT, that primarily benefits Utah and other Western states.
Congress didn't fund PILT in the normal budget and the money in the farm bill only extends the program for one year. Utah counties will receive about $35 million from PILT.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, voted for the compromise bill, which passed 68-32, because it included PILT funding and reduced spending by eliminating a program of direct payments to farmers.
"The compromise bill isn't perfect, but it's a step forward that impacts many in our state," he said.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, supports PILT but voted against the bill, arguing it represents "collusion between both parties against the American people; it benefits the special interests at the expense of the national interest."
He pointed to subsidies for the sugar industry as something he dislikes.
Congress has taken three years to negotiate the $956 billion farm bill, which pairs food stamps with assistance to farmers and ranchers. This bill, which will be in effect for five years, eliminated direct payments to farmers in exchange for a new, heavily subsidized crop insurance program. It also cut duplicative programs and reduced food stamp spending by about $8 billion over 10 years, down from the original cuts of about $40 billion.
The farm bill passed the House last week. Utah's Republican Reps. Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart supported the bipartisan bill. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, opposed it, calling it wasteful spending.
President Barack Obama celebrated the bill's passage saying: "It will make a positive difference not only for the rural economies that grow America's food, but for our nation."
He's expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days.