(Sean Stipp/AP)

The farm bill was once regarded as one of the main legislative vehicles by which members of Congress could deliver pork-barrel spending to their constituents.

It was always a bloated, contentious piece of legislation that grew larger and more expensive as it lumbered through Congress.

But the farm bill that the Senate will began debating Thursday is a considerably slimmed-down version of previous incarnations. It would slash tens of billions of dollars in direct subsidies to farmers and in the federal food stamp program.

For more on the bill — and the expected debate — click here.

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