President Obama signed the new bipartisan 2014 Farm Bill into law on February 7, marking a new direction in American agriculture policy. The Farm Bill is a rare example of Congress working together to pass a major bipartisan jobs bill, and legislation that reduces the deficit by tens of billions of dollars.
Here are five things you should know about the new Farm Bill (click links for more info, and see what others are saying on each item below):
- The Farm Bill is major reform, ending direct payment subsidies and significantly reducing overall farm program spending to reduce the deficit by $23 billion (double the amount recommended by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission).
- The Farm Bill is a major jobs bill, supporting 16 million jobs and strengthening a key sector of our economy.
- The Farm Bill protects food assistance for families, while achieving savings in nutrition assistance solely from addressing fraud and misuse—no one is removed from this important program and every recipient will continue to receive 100% of the benefits they are intended to receive.
- The Farm Bill makes historic investments in local and healthy food initiatives, including support for organics, farmers markets, urban gardens, local food hubs, fresh fruit and vegetable snack programs in schools, and new support for fruit and vegetable growers.
- The Farm Bill is the most significant land, water and wildlife conservation bill in many years. The bill contains major investments in clean land and water initiatives and includes an historic agreement that requires farmers receiving crop insurance support to adhere to environmental stewardship standards.
Click here to read “Not Your Father’s Farm Bill,” an op-ed penned by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, on how the Farm Bill marks a major step in changing the paradigm in American agriculture policy
What Others Are Saying
1. Major Reform, Ending Subsidies to Reduce the Deficit:
“The most important reform in the bill is the elimination of direct payments to farmers ... This program was one of the worst abuses in the federal budget, and negotiators in the House and Senate should be commended.”
– The New York Times, 1/29/14
The Farm Bill is “genuinely a landmark shift … away from direct cash payments to farmers – a much-criticized system begun in the mid-90s – and toward a more market-oriented approach keyed to crop insurance ... The stakes are big: a bipartisan bill promising real savings and impacting an important part of the economy.”
– Politico, 6/12/12
Ending direct payments “represents one of the biggest policy changes in generations.”
– Bloomberg, 4/26/2012
2. Major Jobs Bill, Strengthening the Economy:
"There isn’t much negative to say about agriculture these days…. Agricultural exports soared to $136.3 billion last year, producing a net trade surplus of $42 billion; this surplus was $5 billion five years ago.”
– The New York Times, 2/12/2014
“The wide-ranging legislation affects about 16 million jobs in the country's agricultural sector and can have an impact on the business landscape for major agricultural companies.”
– Reuters, 1/29/2014
“The Council of Economic Advisers’ report said the legislation [Farm Bill] would help provide ‘programs that finance investments in broadband, telecommunications, distance learning and telemedicine, entrepreneurship, and business development and growth.’ And it said that the legislation would continue an ‘emphasis on small-business development, job creation and growth’ in rural areas.”
– The New York Times, 2/7/2014
3. Protecting Food Assistance, Addressing Misuse:
“On balance, the bill is clearly worthy of support, particularly because it will prevent austerity fanatics in future Congresses from gutting food stamps for the next five years.… Most of [those affected] live in the 16 states that have taken advantage of a loophole in a utility-assistance program, receiving benefits that Congress did not intend. That loophole should have been closed…”
– The New York Times Editorial Board, 1/29/2014
This “loophole… costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year — and gives an otherwise vital component of the social safety net a black eye.” “This maneuver results in many people receiving money based on utility expenses they did not actually incur.” For Members of Congress looking to gut food stamps, this “looks less like a clever way to help the poor and more like a political gift to SNAP’s perennial opponents.” The Farm Bill’s policy would affect “only 4 percent of all SNAP families,” and “crucially, none would lose basic eligibility.”
– The Washington Post Editorial Board, 12/30/2013
“The trick — called ‘heat and eat’ — is to give someone with no actual heating bill a token amount of home heating assistance — as little as $1 a year in some states, or a single dime a year in California. Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., use the gimmick to extract billions of dollars in extra federal food-stamp benefits that their citizens aren't really entitled to under the rules… It is a scam that bends the rules in ways lawmakers never intended… It gives some people extra benefits while others in the same situation get less… Defenders of the poor should realize that one of the greatest threats to the food-stamp program is the perception that people are using it to cheat the government. Closing the heat-and-eat loophole makes that argument much harder to make.”
– USA Today Editorial Board, 2/3/2014
4. Making Historic Investments in Healthy, Local Foods:
“Stabenow has pushed hard to reduce spending and do more for the fruit and vegetable and organic sectors, and House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Sam Farr, D-Calif., called the legislation ‘the most progressive farm bill ever passed.’”
– The National Journal, 2/3/2014
“Full funding for organic farm programs is a big victory. In the U.S., demand for organic food products far exceeds supply. Funding programs, although quite small, will begin to help domestic farmers transition to organic farming to meet this growing demand …” The Farm Bill “reflects the growing power of the food movement and it just might hint at the beginnings of a new direction for American agriculture.”
– Huffington Post, 1/30/2014
“The 2014 Farm Bill contains provisions that are the most significant government investment ever in the competitiveness of the fruit and vegetable industry.”
– United Fresh Produce Association, 1/28/2014
5. Most Significant Conservation Bill in Years:
“This farm bill is one of the strongest ever for conservation and forestry. Farm bill programs support clean air and water, productive soils and food security, and this bill’s conservation provisions are practical, cost-effective and provide solid tools and resources for individual landowners. They enable growers to do what they want to do—be good stewards of the land.”
– The Nature Conservancy
The Farm Bill “contains strong conservation and forestry provisions and will help America’s producers meet the growing national and international demands for food and fiber in an increasingly sustainable manner” … “Thank you very much for sustaining the integrity and effectiveness of the Conservation and Forestry Titles.”
– Letter signed by 230 national conservation organizations, 1/28/2014