The recently passed farm bill is one of the most overlooked big bills that has managed to pass Congress in the last year. At nearly $1 trillion, in many ways the farm bill is really about food. The bill sets eating and farming policy for the next five years in the United States. This includes what farmers grow, what information you will know about the food that you put on your table, and how much the government will spend to help manage all of this. Below you will find some of the ways that the farm bill may affect you:
Conservation of Land
Environmental and wildlife groups are claiming victory for getting two of their top priorities placed into the farm bill which require farmers to use conservation practices with their land. As part of the bill, in order for farmers to use land that is deemed highly erodible or protected wetland, farmers will need to use good conservation practices in order to qualify for crop insurance subsidies. It also discourages farmers from using native grasslands in several Midwestern states through “sodsaver” protections. While this can be more expensive in the short run, conservationists claim that protecting the land and saves US taxpayers money in the long run. While this is considered a win, overall the bill ends up cutting direct spending for government conservation programs.
Cuts to Food Stamps
For those who depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which was formerly known as Food Stamps, the amount of money they receive has been cut by significant levels for them. The program was cut by $8.6 billion over the next ten years. Some 850,000 low-income households will lose an average of $90 a month to what they were receiving from SNAP.
More Farmers Markets
Local farms have received some additional benefits from the bill that should strengthen farmers markets in many areas. The bill triples the funding to $30 million a year for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. This project helps local food projects that sell food directly to consumers and local enterprises with all aspects of getting their products to market.
The Community Food Program had its funding nearly doubled including the creation of a new Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive grant program. This program will help those on the SNAP program use their food stamps at farmers markets to help increase their ability to get fresh fruits and vegetables.
Better Meat Labeling
You will now know more about the meats that you buy. The farm bill will require that meat such as pork, chicken and beef include details about the life of the animal that is to be consumed. This information will include where the animal was born, as well as where it was slaughtered and processed. Some foreign countries such as Canada, Mexico and Australia ha vigorously fought this labeling. You now will know where your meat was handled.
The Government Takes on More Risk
The farm bill has a large subsidy for crop insurance making it less expensive for farmers. This will make farming less risky for farmers, but shifts the added risk to the government and taxpayer dollars. If crop prices fall dramatically or if there is a natural disaster that wipes out crops, it’s the government, with your tax dollars, that will end up paying the bill.
What You Eat
This farm bill also decides what crops end up going into your body by what it decided to encouraged to be grown and what crops to protect. This include the main “row crops” of corn, wheat and soy. Another winner from the bill might be a little unexpected. Sushi rice gets a new subsidy that means it its price falls too low, the government will pay the difference. That will mean that more farmers will consider planting it since there is less risk, which would mean more sushi rice for consumers.
(Photo courtesy of Millers Neck Road)