The farm bill is an expansive piece of legislation that provides funding for commodity programs, conservation, trade, nutrition, credit, rural development, research, forestry, energy, horticulture and organic agriculture, livestock, crop insurance and disaster assistance programs and tax provisions. The farm bill is typically passed every five years or so. The 2008 Farm bill expired September 30, 2012. Congress extended the 2008 bill for one more year, bringing us to the current controversy over the 2013 Farm Bill.
The vast majority of the farm bill is nutrition--roughly 75% of the total farm bill. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) makes up about 72% of the nutrition budget. Crop insurance is expected to be the next largest budgetary expense.
Nutrition and federal spending are in the cross hairs of the current farm bill debate. Republicans want to see cuts to the food assistance programs and Democrats are concerned with crop insurance fraud. In an effort to push through some type of farm bill, the House has attempted to split food stamps from farm policy and create two separate bills. This is the first time since 1973 that food stamps have been split from farm policy.
If the bill expires on September 30, 2013, effects of not having a new bill would not be seen until December 31, 2013, when the dairy price support program would end. If a new bill is not passed before the current one ends, the program would revert back to 1940's era agriculture laws. Crops would likely not be effected until summer of 2014, when the 2013 crop cycle ends.
- 1 Congressional timeline
- 2 Spending contentions
- 3 U.S. Senate
- 4 U.S. House
- 5 References
June 10, 2013: The United States Senate passed a new farm bill that cuts $24 billion in spending. In this bill, the food stamp program would lose $4.1 billion over the next ten years. Conservation programs would lose $3.5 billion. Direct payments to farmers would be eliminated, saving $5 billion per year and making crop insurance the major source of assistance. The bill adds subsidies for rice and peanut farmers to compensate for the direct payment cuts. It also keeps the controversial catfish inspection program. The bill passed 66-27.
June 20, 2013: The United States House of Representatives defeated the farm bill in a 234-195 vote. This bill would cut $40 billion from the nutrition program over the next ten years. The food stamp program would lose $20.5 billion of that $40 billion. The bill would have ended direct payments to farmers and instead created new subsidies for peanut, cotton and rice farmers. It would have brought back livestock insurance programs.
July 11, 2012: The United States House of Representatives passed a watered-down version of the farm bill in a 216-208 vote. The bill passed included farm policy, but did not include food stamps. It also included the "Protect Interstate Commerce Act" amendment from Steve King. The amendment prevents states from applying their own laws on agricultural products to agricultural products from another state.. King introduced the amendment in response to a law in California, requiring a larger size cage for egg-producing chickens. King represents Iowa, which is a large egg producer.
September 19, 2013: The United States House of Representatives will vote on a food stamp bill that will save almost $40 billion over the next ten years by cutting the SNAP program by 5%. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this would affect 3.8 million Americans.
- Senators John McCain and Jeanne Shaheen, along with the Obama administration, want to eliminate a catfish inspection program from the farm bill. An identical program is run by the Food and Drug Administration and the farm bill program is seen as a waste of money.
- Representatives Tom Petri and Ron Kind are calling for crop insurance reforms, amid reports of fraud losses over $100 million dollars.
- June 10, 2013: Alexander explained his support for Senate the farm bill. He said, "Agriculture is one of Tennessee's most important industries, with more than 77,000 farms contributing tens-of-billions of dollars each year to the state's economy. Not only does this legislation provide certainty to farmers, it also saves taxpayers nearly $18 billion by modernizing programs that impact our nation's food supply."
- June 10, 2013: Grassley released a statement following his support vote for the Senate farm bill. He said, "The bill that cleared the Senate tonight is a step in the right direction. Having responsible payment limits on the commodity program is crucial to the defensibility of the farm safety-net. We need payment caps on our commodity programs, and we need to close loopholes that have allowed non-farmers to game the system. I hope the House takes notice at the reforms in the Senate-passed bill and sees the positive changes we made to the farm payment system." He added, "And, while the inclusion of my payment limits plan is very reform-minded, the target price program that is included in the final bill will take us back a step. Target prices distort planting decisions, and I hear opposition to it from Iowa farmers all the time. We’ve tried it before and it doesn’t work." He concluded, "While I continue to have concerns about the potential impacts of the shallow loss and target price programs created in this farm bill, I would also agree with the overwhelming sentiment from Iowa farmers that they need to have certainty. A five-year farm bill that includes my payment limit reforms, maintains the crop insurance program, and streamlines conservation programs gives that certainty."
- June 20, 2013: Stabenow released a statement after the House farm bill failed. She said, "Twice the Senate has overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan Farm Bill that reforms farm programs, ends direct payments, cuts spending, and creates American agriculture jobs. The House needs to find a way to get a five year Farm Bill done. The Speaker needs to work in a bipartisan way and present a bill that Democrats and Republicans can support. He could start by bringing the Senate bill to the floor for a vote. Maintaining the status quo means no reform, no deficit reduction, and further uncertainty that slows growth in our agriculture industry. This is totally unacceptable."
- August 20, 2013: Stabenow spoke about the Senate's farm bill while visiting farmers in Michigan. She said, "We have many things in the bill that make it worth passing. We are making major changes to help farmers markets and conservation with major new effort to protect the Great Lakes. We added something called bio-base manufacturing to create jobs and help us stop using petroleum for plastics and let us use food by-products to help get us off of foreign oil. The bottom line is every community is benefited from rural development, so we need to get the farm bill done."
- September 9, 2013: Stabenow encouraged the House to step up and work on getting a farm bill passed. She said, "It's time to stop kicking the can down the road and leaving rural America and 16 million jobs hanging in uncertainty. The Senate has agreed to go to conference and appointed conferees, and whenever the House decides to do the same we can move forward and finish the Farm Bill. I do not support an extension because it is bad policy that yields no deficit reduction, no reform and does nothing to help American agriculture create jobs. It's time to do the work we were sent here to do and finally finish this Farm Bill."
- June 10, 2013: Johnson explained why he voted against the Senate farm bill. He said, "Its positive provisions, such as improved risk management, are outweighed by negative ones, such as government regulated dairy supply management and sugar subsidies. I hope the Senate can soon begin work on legislation that genuinely addresses the real problems that farm and dairy families are dealing with every day."
- June 11, 2013: Rubio made a statement on the House floor explaining why he voted against the farm bill. He said, "With an overall cost of nearly $1 trillion, this legislation is more than we can afford at a time when our debt of nearly $17 trillion is growing rapidly each day. While I support some of the programs in this bill that are important to Florida and our State's important role in America's food supply, we cannot allow Washington to continue spending recklessly and condemning our children and grandchildren to a diminished future." He went on to say, "I remain committed to championing sound policy important to the farmers and working families that contribute to the agriculture industry's success and whose products ultimately end up at our dinner tables. It is why I am pursuing reforms in other areas that would benefit our farmers and our Nation. For example, I continue working towards national immigration reform, which would help create a guest worker visa program to ensure an adequate agriculture workforce. This reform would achieve an agricultural workers program that allows us to bring in both temporary and long-term laborers to provide our farms, dairies and other agricultural industries with the workers they need and in a way that also protects the dignity and safety of those workers."
- June 10, 2013: Sheldon explained in a speech on the Senate floor, "The farm bill is important and wide-ranging legislation. Unfortunately, the bill before the Senate leaves out essential protections for low-income Americans, hard-hit fisheries, and precious natural resources."
- September 16, 2013: Lucas expressed frustration over getting a farm bill passed. He said in an interview with Agritalk, "It shouldn’t be this hard to make sure everybody has enough to eat. The other thing I would say is, the magnitude by which (Ranking Member Rep.) Collin (Peterson (D-MN)) and I have been pelted from both the left and the right, this is not a political issue."
No House Democrats voted for the House bill on July 11, 2013.
- Tom Petri:Note: Although Petri voted in favor of the farm bill, he introduced an amendment with Ron Kind calling for reforms.
- May 15, 2013: Petri gave a speech on the House floor expressing support for the crop insurance amendment he and Ron Kind authored. He said, "I'm glad to be a part of this bipartisan effort to make important changes to the crop insurance program. Currently, the federal government subsidizes roughly 62% of farmers' crop insurance premiums at a cost of $9 billion a year. But America's small farmers received only 27% of the subsidies. This bill keeps in place a safety net for farmers who need assistance, while ensuring the program is not exploited at a cost to taxpayers."
- September 12, 2013: A rally was held on Capitol Hill, featuring Wisconsin Representatives Tom Petri and Ron Kind. The rally was meant to draw attention to crop insurance, which is currently paid for by taxpayers. Kind and Petri are calling for reforms of the program.
- September 10, 2013: McGovern expressed his concern with deep nutrition program cuts. He said, "There are 50 million people in the United States of America who are hungry, 17 million are kids. It is something we all should be ashamed of, and the United States House of Representatives is about to make that worse. This is a big deal and my hope is that we'll treat it as such and not just let it go by without a lot of discussion and debate because we're all focused on Syria."
- September 10, 2013: Barbara Lee spoke out against proposed cuts to the food stamp program. She said, "Republicans are introducing $40 billion in cuts to SNAP, our nation's most effective anti-hunger program, and they're hoping that our attention is split and Congress is focusing only on Syria. We can and must also be working to come together and defeat this serious threat to our nation's most vulnerable."
- Izaak Walton League of America, "What is a Farm Bill?", accessed September 17, 2013
- National Farmers Union, "2013 Farm Bill", accessed September 17, 2013
- New York Times, "Fraud Used to Frame Farm Bill Debate", accessed September 17, 2013
- National Journal, "Fight Over Food Stamps Dominates Farm Bill", accessed September 19, 2013
- University of Illinois Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, "2013 Farm Bill Update - July 2013", accessed September 17, 2013
- New York Times, "Senate Passes Farm Bill; House Vote Is Less Sure", accessed September 17, 2013
- New York Times, "House Rejects Farm Bill as Food Stamp Cuts Prove Divisive", accessed September 17, 2013
- New York Times, "House Republicans Push Through Farm Bill, Without Food Stamps", accessed September 17, 2013
- Time.com, "King Farm Bill Amendment Angers Animal Advocates", accessed September 18, 2013
- Huffington Post, "Food Stamps Kept 4 Million Out Of Poverty In 2012", accessed September 18, 2013
- New York Times, "Number of Catfish Inspectors Drives a Debate on Spending", accessed September 17, 2013
- Ag web.com "Crop Insurance Critics Rally for U.S. Farm Subsidy Curbs", accessed September 18, 2013
- Bloomberg, "Fraud Stealing $100 Million Shows Flaws in U.S. Crop Insurance", accessed September 19, 2013
- Vote smart, "Alexander Votes for Farm Bill to Modernize Farm Programs Save Taxpayers Nearly $18 Billion", accessed September 18, 2013
- Grassley Senate.gov, "Farm and Nutrition Bill Clears Senate, Grassley Payment Limits Intact", accessed September 18, 2013
- Vote smart, "Agriculture Chairwoman Stabenow Statement on House Failure to Pass a Farm Bill", accessed September 18, 2013
- Mlive.com, "U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow rallies support for food stamps, passage of 2013 Farm Bill in Kalamazoo", accessed September 18, 2013
- Vote smart, "Chairwoman Stabenow Statement, following News Conference with Majority Leader Reid and Neil Young, on Moving Farm Bill Forward", accessed September 18, 2013
- Worldnow.com, "U.S. Senate approves 2013 Farm Bill", accessed September 18, 2013
- Vote smart, "Rubio House Speech", accessed September 18, 2013
- Vote smart, "Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 Floor Speech", accessed September 18, 2013
- Ag web, "Farm Bill Update: ‘It Shouldn’t Be This Hard’", accessed September 18, 2013
- House.gov, "Roll call vote", accessed September 18, 2013
- Vote smart, "Petri, Kind Introduce Legislation to Reform U.S. Crop Insurance Policies", accessed September 18, 2013
- Huffington Post, "Food Stamp Cuts To Get House Vote In Syria's Shadow", accessed September 18, 2013