Senate Passes Farm Bill

The U.S. Senate passed a four-year farm bill Tuesday that includes Payments in Lieu of Taxes.

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The so-called PILT program sends some $26 million a year to Alaska communities adjacent to non-taxable federal lands. The bill also renews Alaska’s Village Safe Water program, which gets some $30 million a year from the federal government.

Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, though, voted against it, saying it provided billions of dollars in wasteful agriculture subsidies.

The bill continues controversial subsidies for some crops. It also creates new crop insurance to replace billions of dollars in direct payments to farmers. It cuts more than $8 billion from the food stamp program over a decade, but those cuts affect about 15 states that critics say were taking advantage of a loophole, and Alaska is not among them.

Alaska’s Democratic Senator, Mark Begich, was one of 68 senators who voted for the bill. On the House said, Rep. Don Young also voted for it.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law this week.

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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska’s congressional delegation, federal agency decisions that shape life in the 49th state, money in politics and elections. She has deep roots in Alaska and this is her third stint in Washington, a city she has grown to love.

She was born in Anchorage and is a West High graduate. She studied political science at the University of Washington and has an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia. During graduate school, she moved to Washington to intern as a D.C. correspondent. But for her first real journalism job, she moved back to Alaska to work at the Homer News. She was there for three years before taking a job at the Anchorage Daily News. Over the course of nine years in Anchorage, she covered City Hall, courts, state politics, and Native and rural affairs.

Then, in April 2001, she moved back to Washington to work in McClatchy Newspaper’s D.C. bureau as a correspondent for the Anchorage paper. She stayed in the position for five years.

She took a year off for a journalism fellowship at the University of Colorado in Boulder, then freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio.

When a vacancy occurred in APRN’s one-person Washington bureau, she jumped at the opportunity. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013.

lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz