United States farm bill

In the United States, the farm bill is the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government.[1] The comprehensive omnibus bill is renewed every 5 years or so and deals with both agriculture and all other affairs under the purview of the United States Department of Agriculture.[2]

It usually makes amendments and suspensions to provisions of permanent law, reauthorizes, amends, or repeals provisions of preceding temporary agricultural acts, and puts forth new policy provisions for a limited time into the future. Beginning in 1933, farm bills have included titles on commodity programs, trade, rural development, farm credit, conservation, agricultural research, food and nutrition programs, marketing, etc.[3]

Farm bills can be highly controversial and can impact international trade, environmental conservation, food safety, and the well-being of rural communities.

On May 18th, 2018 the $867 billion 2018 United States farm bill failed in the House of Representatives with a vote of 198 yea to 213 nay. All Democrats and 30 Republicans voted against the measure. Republican opposition came largely from the Freedom Caucus who insisted that a separate vote to restrict immigration be held before they would support the bill. Democratic opposition was largely due to the proposed changes to the attached Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that would impose work requirements. [4]

History of farm bills before 2000

Farm bills were first created during the Great Depression to give financial assistance to farmers who were struggling due to an excess crop supply creating low prices, and also to control and ensure an adequate food supply.[5] The first farm bill, known as the Agriculture Adjustment Act (AAA), was passed by Congress in 1933 as a part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.[6] The bill allowed farmers to receive payment for not growing food on a percentage of their land as allocated by the United States Secretary of Agriculture. It also enabled the government to buy excess grain from farmers, which could then be sold later if bad weather or other circumstances negatively affected output. The AAA also included a nutrition program, the precursor to food stamps.[7]

In 1938, Congress created a more permanent farm bill (the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938) with a built-in requirement to update it every five years.[6] In 1996, the first major structural change was made to the farm bill when Congress decided farm incomes should be determined by free market forces and stopped subsidizing farmland and purchasing extra grain. Instead, the government began requiring farmers to enroll in a crop insurance program in order to receive farm payments. This led to years of the highest farm subsidies in American history.[7]

Direct payments also began in the late 1990s as a way to support struggling farmers, regardless of crop output.[6] These payments allowed grain farmers to receive a government check every year based on yields and acreage of the farm as recorded the previous decade.[7]

History of farm bills since 2000

In 2008, the farm bill was passed as the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. The bill included approximately $100 billion in annual spending for Department of Agriculture programs, around 80 percent of which was allocated for food stamps and other nutritional programs.[6][8][9]

The 2008 Farm bill increased spending to $288Bn therefore causing controversy at the time by increasing the budget deficit. It increased subsidies for biofuels which the World Bank has named as one of three most important contributors, along with high fuel prices and price speculation, to the 2007–2008 world food price crisis.[10]

President George Bush had vetoed the 2008 bill due to its size and cost. However, the veto was overridden by Congress. The 2008 bill was also publicly controversial due to its high cost and the uneven distribution of subsidy money among farmers. The bill was 47 percent more expensive than the 2003 bill, and, over the previous ten years, 10 percent of farmers had received 75 percent of subsidy dollars. Some of these farm owners were then-members of Congress and other public figures, including former president Jimmy Carter, who received thousands of dollars in direct payments.[11] In 2007, it was found that about 62 percent of farmers do not receive subsidies from the farm bill.[7]

In 2012, while writing the new farm bill, known as the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, Congress proposed many ways to cut down the overall cost of the bill, including stricter eligibility standards for food stamps and moving away from direct payments to farmers.[6] However, food stamps and nutrition remained the largest portion of the bill's cost, amounting to a proposed $768.2 billion over ten years.[12] The 2012 bill ultimately failed to pass in the House, which caused Congress to extend the 2008 bill until September 30, 2013.[5][13] This was enacted as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, passed by Congress on January 1, 2013 and signed into law the next day by President Barack Obama. (Public Law No: 112-240)

Between the passage of the 2008 farm bill and the creation of the 2013 bill, the food stamp program changed its name to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and nearly doubled in size.[14] The proposed 2013 bill would cut funding to SNAP by about $400 million a year, which amounts to half a percent of spending from previous years. Under an amendment introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), it would also reduce crop insurance subsidies by 15 percent for the top 1 percent of U.S. wealthiest farmers, those with a gross annual income of more than $750,000.[15][16] The new bill also proposed a new insurance program for dairy producers which would cut costs by eliminating other dairy subsidies and price supports.[14]

The 2013 farm bill was approved in the Senate on June 10, 2013[5] but did not pass the House.[17]

The 2014 Farm bill, known as the Agricultural Act of 2014, was passed by Congress and signed into law on February 7, 2014, 2 years late, as authority under its predecessor, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 had expired September 30, 2012.

Non-farm bill agriculture legislation

Farm bills

According to the Congressional Research Service, nine bills between 1965 and 2002 are "generally agreed" to be farm bills;[3] the 2008 farm bill is the tenth.

  1. Food and Agriculture Act of 1965
  2. Agricultural Act of 1970
  3. Agriculture and Consumer Protection Act of 1973
  4. Food and Agriculture Act of 1977
  5. Agriculture and Food Act of 1981
  6. Food Security Act of 1985
  7. Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990
  8. Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996
  9. Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002
  10. Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008
  11. Agricultural Act of 2014
  12. 2018 United States farm bill

Proposed farm bills

See also


  1. Johnson, Renée; Monke, Jim (October 5, 2017). What is the Farm Bill? (PDF). Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  2. Monke, Jim (May 31, 2018). Farm Bills: Major Legislative Actions, 1965-2018 (PDF). Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  3. CRS Report for Congress: Agriculture: A Glossary of Terms Programs and Laws, 2005 Edition – Order Code 97-905 Archived August 10, 2011, at the Wayback Machine,
  4. "House Farm Bill Fails As Conservatives Revolt Over Immigration". NPR.org. Retrieved 2018-05-19.
  5. Alison Crissman (12 June 2013). "Senate approves new farm bill". The Daily Iowan. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  6. Scott Neuman (13 June 2013). "Why The Farm Bill's Provisions Will Matter To You". NPR. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  7. Kathleen Masterson (26 September 2011). "The Farm Bill: From Charitable Start To Prime Budget Target". NPR. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  8. Dennis Sherer (30 April 2012). "Farm, food aid programs face debate about budgets". The Times Daily. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  9. Mannix Porterfield (16 May 2008). "Rockefeller blasts Bush on threatened farm bill veto". Register Herald. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  10. Global Economic Prospects: Commodities at the Crossroads, World Bank Report 2009 page 52, ISBN 978-0-8213-7799-4
  11. Curtis Houck (4 June 2013). "15 Members of Congress Received $238K in Farm Subsidies Last Year". CNS News. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  12. Brad Plumer (14 June 2012). "The Senate farm bill, in one graph". The Washington Post. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  13. Curtis Houck (4 June 2013). "15 Members of Congress Received $238K in Farm Subsidies Last Year". CNS News. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  14. Mary Clare Jalonick (10 June 2013). "Senate Passes Farm Bill, Moving Debate to House". Time Magazine. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  15. Cox, Ramsey (23 May 2013). "Senate votes 59–33 to reduce subsidies for the wealthiest farmers". Washington, DC: The Hill. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  16. "At the trough: An awful farm bill faces opposition". Chicago: The Economist. 1 June 2013.
  17. Kick, Chris (1 November 2013). "Sense of urgency as farm bill conference begins". Farm and Dairy newspaper. Retrieved 29 January 2014.

Further reading

  • Bosso, Christopher. Framing the Farm Bill: Interests, Ideology, and Agricultural Act of 2014 (University Press of Kansas, 2017).
  • Orden, David and Carl Zulauf. "Political economy of the 2014 farm bill." American Journal of Agricultural Economics 97.5 (2015): 1298-1311. online online]
  • Zulauf, Carl and David Orden, "The US Agricultural Act of 2014: Overview and Analysis." (International Food Policy Research Institute discussion paper 01393, 2014) online
  • Zulauf, Carl, and David Orden. "80 Years of Farm Bills—Evolutionary Reform." Choices (2016) 31#4 pp 1–7 online
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