A 5-year farm and food bill that revamps the federal safety net for farmers has cleared its first procedural hurdle in the Senate.

The 90-8 vote to officially begin debate opens the way for what could be several weeks of attempts to amend proposed legislation that spends some $100 billion a year on crop insurance, conservation and nutrition programs.

The measure would save $23 billion over a 10-year period from current spending levels. Some savings would come from eliminating the current system where farmers get paid directly regardless of whether they actually plant a crop.

This would be replaced with greater stress on subsidized crop insurance and a new program that would compensate farmers when revenues from planted fields fall below levels as determined by a five-year average.

National Corn Growers Association President Garry Niemeyer released a statement saying the vote, "reaffirms that Senators understand the importance of passing the 2012 Farm Bill this year. The Farm Bill creates the reforms needed to not only reduce the federal deficit, but ensure a positive beginning for the next generation of America’s farmers."