Lots of folks have been analyzing the Farm Bill. Here’s a round up of some of the better ones.
Some of the best, and most informed Farm Bill info is coming out from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, of which Georgia Organics is a member.They drill deep into the good, bad, and the ugly in this first of a seven part series of Farm Bill reports.
While the focus has been on how and where to cut, it is perhaps more relevant to talk about what the new bill proposes to spend. It has always been clear since the get go that the new farm bill would spend close to a trillion dollars over the coming decade, with the bulk of that on SNAP and nutrition programs. That would be true whether the bill included no net savings or $20 or 40 billion in savings, due in large part to the outsize role that the food stamp program plays in the farm bill spending regime and the run-up in food stamp costs due to the economic recession and slow recovery.
In total, the new farm bill will invest $444 million directly into beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmer initiatives over the next ten years, representing an increase of 154 percent over the previous farm bill.
The farm bill passed by the Senate today will take food and farm policy in the wrong direction. It will create new, expanded and largely unlimited crop insurance subsidies for the largest and most successful farm operations at the expense of family farmers and the environment.
Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and other key members of Congress there are new conservation requirements for farm businesses that collect crop insurance subsidies and more support for local and regional food systems, as well as, organic agriculture
Lawmakers also drew praise for new soil conservation measures in the bill and for creating a pilot program to encourage recipients of food stamps to buy more fruits and vegetables.
“This is not your father’s farm bill,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow, the Michigan Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, who is the bill’s author.
Specifically, Ms. Stabenow pointed out that the bill eliminates a much-criticized $5 billion-a-year crop subsidy to farmers who received the payments whether they grew crops or not. “Instead of getting a government check even in good times, farmers will pay an insurance bill every year and will only receive support from that insurance in years when they take a loss,” Ms. Stabenow said.
One piece of good news is that the farm bill will create new programs to fight soil erosion, and cuts subsidies for farmers who plow virgin land. However, overall spending for agricultural conservation efforts has been reduced.
Furthermore, many environmentally-minded people see this as a wasted opportunity. Mark Bittman writes that the bill doesn’t address the public policies it should, such as “encouragement and support for would-be new farmers and small farmers; “conservation” in the form of agriculture that doesn’t seek to defeat nature; increased funding for research into sustainable agriculture.” Again, big conventional agriculture wins out over more sustainable growers and environmental interests.
While it’s called the farm bill, in truth, it’s more of a food bill. It sets five years of eating and farming policy in the United States, including what we grow, what you know about your dinner and how much government spends in the process. It cuts the food stamp program and increases spending on farmers markets. Whatever you think of Congress, this is a bill that deserves some attention.
Yes, you read that headline right. This isn’t the five winners and losers from the proposed farm bill or the debated farm bill. This is the brand-spanking-new farm bill that this morning marched out of the house on a 251 to 166 vote to the welcome arms of the Senate and President. Sure, it’s 496 days behind schedule, but you know what they say in Washington: better ridiculously late than never.
“Everybody across the board took a cut. The farmers took cuts. Conservation took a cut, food stamps, or the SNAP program, took a cut,” Shurley said. “There’s not nearly as much money going into anything as there was under the old farm bill.”