What is the Farm Bill?
The Farm Bill is a comprehensive law that creates many federal policies related to agriculture and food. It is typically renewed every 5 years and covers topics like farm subsidies, conservation, and food assistance.
The Farm Bill was originally created during the Great Depression in 1933. This was part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts to provide subsidies to struggling farmers. These subsidies incentivized farmers to grow less of key commodity crops so the crops’ value would increase.
Since then there have been many Farm Bills and the legislation has transformed over time. The current Farm Bill was approved in 2014 and is up for renewal in 2018.
How Does the Farm Bill Help Feed People?
Most of the funding provided by the Farm Bill (79%) goes towards nutrition assistance. This pays for programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) which provides food stamps to low-income individuals and their families.
While trade and agriculture organizations agree that nutrition and commodity programs should be combined as one package in the 2018 Farm Bill, some republicans want to remove SNAP from the bill. These Republicans, like Paul Ryan and Mike Conaway, want to put nutrition assistance funding into block grants, making the states in charge of administering funding.
This would make nutrition assistance less effective. The way SNAP is currently structured, when there is a crisis, like a recession, the federal government can allocate money accordingly. Giving fixed amounts of money to each state would take away this ability to immediately respond to emergencies. It is also likely that the block-granted funds would provide a range of services like housing assistance, but, as a result, would provide less food to families in need of nutrition.
How did the 2014 Farm Bill Fund Big Ag?
Prior to the 2014 Farm Bill, the 2008 Farm Bill included “direct payments” which began in 1996 with the intention of transitioning farmers off subsidies. In the Direct Payment program, farmers are given payments if current farm production does not meet historical production levels, thus making up the gap in income.
This means that large estates that no longer had fields in production were still receiving payments at the cost to you, the taxpayer. Your taxes…