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View From The Hill: Farm Bill Passes House

By Allison Paisner, National Grange Intern (View From The Hill Blog 1/30/14)

  FEBRUARY 1, 2014 --

Well, this is definitely something to get excited about! After two years of stalling, disagreement, failure, and plenty of “back to the drawing board” moments, the House finally passed a new five-year Farm Bill on Wednesday, January 29th. Whereas the vote was relatively bipartisan, the bill is still subject to a vote in the Senate and must be signed by the President. Luckily, according to a Washington Post article, prospects for this bill are looking high. The article and more information about the 2014 Farm Bill can be found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/federal_government/house-to-vote-on-final-farm-bill-food-stamp-cuts/2014/01/29/4a3d8b60-88bf-11e3-a760-a86415d0944d_story.html.

But, before we all start holding hands and singing hallelujah, let’s take a quick glance at some of the major changes this bill entails. The buzzword that is getting both parties worked up seems to be SNAP, better known as the food stamp program. Democrats are afraid that too much is being cut, and Republicans don’t think the program’s cuts are steep enough. To be fair though, something on the hill was accomplished that we don’t get to hear about too often: compromise. Spending cuts were rearranged and funds were reallocated, moving cuts in food stamps to financing food banks and reconfiguring international food aid program funds. Ultimately this version of the Farm Bill is expected to generate $16.6 billion in savings over the next ten years. Forget the fact that the bill authorizes nearly $1 trillion in spending…

And yet, one underrated provision of the bill that I found to be particularly saucy is the measure that eliminates direct payments to farmers and ultimately transforms the farming safety net. A type of subsidy that is paid to farmers whether or not they grow their crops, direct payments add up to about $5 billion worth of spending every year. Essentially, direct payments are based on the number of acres of farmland owned rather than their crop. No fear, however, because to compensate for these cuts the Farm Bill will significantly add to government-subsidized crop insurance. While major GM crops like corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, and cotton will continue to be heavily subsidized, this means that farmers are going to start relying more on “politically defensible insurance programs.” In other words, only farmers who actually farm will receive the subsidy, which makes sense to me. Factoring in the effects of precipitation and weather as indicators is a more practical and effective foundation for determining crop insurance eligibility.

All things considered, at the end of the day the House did achieve what a majority of fed-up Americans have been asking for: something. A Farm Bill approved, members of the House can now take a second to pat themselves on the back for this one temporary feat (assuming all goes well in the Senate and on the President’s desk), and move on to the next item on their to-do list. Two years and one government shutdown later and the nation may be one step closer to passing a Farm Bill. With Congress going at this rate, this gives just enough time for the House to start working on the next one!

-Allison Paisner
National Grange Intern

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