New Farm Bill, Can You Say “Finally”

A pie about the Farm Bill circa 2014.

The House-Senate Conference Committee has approved the new farm bill.   This synopsis was obviously written by a Republican but read it anyhow.   This one’s good for five years.   We’ll see what it does and doesn’t do for us.  After two years of wrangling about it you would think it would be a monument to statesmanship, compromise and progress.   It most likely is not.   And no matter what it actually contains the proof of what it will actually do for us will be in the rule making and enforcement.

Here is the Associated Press synopsis, I have highlighted the parts I like:

— Test programs in 10 states that would allow new work requirements for food stamp recipients.

— A prohibition on lottery winners, convicted sex offenders and murderers from receiving food stamps.

— The end of so-called direct payments, government subsidies paid to farmers whether they farm or not. The payments now cost around $4.5 billion a year.

— A new revenue insurance subsidy that would pay farmers in the event of “shallow losses,” or revenue losses incurred before their paid crop insurance kicks in. That program might kick in sooner than previously thought as some crop prices have dropped in recent months.

— A separate subsidy program would trigger payments when crop prices drop. This is similar to current subsidies, though the new programs would kick in sooner, especially for rice and peanut producers. Producers would have to choose between these subsidies or the revenue insurance.

Stricter limits on how much money an individual farmer can receive — $125,000 annually on all payments and loans, when some were previously unrestricted. The agreement is less strict than either the House or Senate bills, which had put limits on how much a farmer could receive from individual programs. Language that would limit how many people in a farm operation may receive such payments was also passed by both chambers but taken out of the compromise bill, which would kick the issue to the Agriculture Department.

— An additional $5.7 billion for government-subsidized crop insurance programs. A Senate amendment that would have lowered crop insurance payouts for the wealthiest farmers was struck from the final version.

— A new dairy program that would do away with current price supports and allow farmers to purchase a new kind of insurance that pays out when the gap between the price they receive for milk and their feed costs narrows. The program is designed to help dairy farmers survive price collapses like they have seen in recent years. But it would not include a so-called stabilization program that would have dictated production cuts when oversupply drives down prices. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called that “Soviet-style” and pressured negotiators to take it out. He was backed by large food companies which said the program could raise the price they pay for milk.  (ed. note: but they didn’t, hurrah for them!)

— A new insurance program for cotton growers designed to bring the U.S. industry into compliance with the World Trade Organization. The WTO said in 2009 that Brazil could raise the tariffs on American goods because the United States had failed to get rid of subsidies the WTO said are illegal.

A test program that would allow 10 states to grow industrial hemp. Those 10 states have legalized cultivation but are unable to produce because of current federal law.

— Land payments to Western states. The bill gives the government authority to make payments of $425 million to states which lose tax money because of federal lands, mostly in the West. That funding had expired at the end of last year.

And then there were the real “down in the weeds” bits.  According to the WaPo “Page 881 of the farm bill outlines “Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling of Beef, Pork, Lamb, Chicken, Goat Meat, Wild and Farm-raised Fish and Shellfish, Perishable Agricultural Commodities, Peanuts, Pecans, Ginseng and Macadamia Nuts.”   You really will get to know where your food is coming from.   And that is a good thing.  And “A big deal for the Whole Foods crowd. According to the bill, “The term ‘farm-raised fish’ means any aquatic species that is propagated and reared in a controlled environment.”

But if you just want to read the whole 1000 pages for yourself.   Go for it.

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