The Farm Bill is a piece of legislation Congress undertakes every five years to dole out agricultural subsidies, set food policy, and budget for food stamps. This seemingly simple task however, has fallen victim to the current partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill. For the past two years Congress has been unable to pass an agreement on the legislation. This week however there was hope, as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have come to a final agreement for the 2014 Farm Bill.
“Today’s bipartisan agreement puts us on the verge of enacting a five-year Farm Bill that saves taxpayers billions, eliminates unnecessary subsidies, creates a more effective farm safety-net and helps farmers and businesses create jobs,” said Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan, chair of the Senate Agricultural Committee.
Here’s a look at what’s inside this bipartisan piece of legislation.
- Nearly $1 trillion budgeted for farm subsidies and nutrition programs. This is expected to bring a savings of $16.6 billion over the next 10 years.
- An $8 billion cut in food stamps which will cause 850,000 households to lose around $90 a month from their benefits. 80 percent of the entire funding in the Farm Bill does however go for paying for nutritional programs.
- A $200 million increase in financing for America’s food banks.
- The complete elimination of the direct payment program, which payed out $5 billion a year to farmers regardless of whether or not they were growing crops at the time.
- $9 billion allocated to the government subsidized crop insurance program. The federal government is responsible for pay 62 percent of the premiums for this program.
- A cap of $125,000 on how much each individual farmer can receive from the government annually, in terms of payments and loans.
- Full funding for farmers looking to switch their operations over to organic farming.
- $80 million given to USAID for global food aid programs, as well as an allowance for program managers to buy food supplies closer to the source rather than requiring that all food aid be grown in America.
- Funding for a new program called Agricultural Risk Coverage which will cover farmers losses before their regular insurance deductibles kick in.
- Another new program in this bill is Price Loss Coverage, which raises the price floor on 14 different staple cross, some almost by double.
- $6 billion in cuts to current conservation programs.
- A provision that requires farmers comply with current conservation programs and regulations, as well as a “sod saver” measure that eliminates subsidies to farmers who decide to use previously un-plowed land, in an effort to preserve natural ground.
- $40 million in grants to states to provide public access to private lands for hiking, hunting, and wildlife watching.
While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called this version of the Farm Bill less than perfect there is still enough bipartisan support and political will to get it passed. President Obama has previously said that he would veto any legislation that causes significant cuts from the food stamp program. However, considering the long delay on passing a Farm Bill to begin, the White House may just have no choice but to let this one slide.