The current “Farm Bill” (actually called the Food, Conservation & Energy Act of 2008) is a $288 billion monster that funds everything from farm subsidies to school nutrition programs to organic agriculture research to farmland conservation.
It expires in 2012. So the next year and a half every stakeholder under the sun will be muscling Congress to get its share.
Obviously, there are huge implications for North Country agriculture and public health, and for everyone who eats. So I’m going to help us keep up with regular Farm Bill blog posts.
Today, an astute look at the reshaped Farm Bill political landscape from the blog, Civil Eats.
Andy Fisher notes there’ll be a new House Agriculture Committee chairman, Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, who doesn’t appear interested in much reform.
The most interesting passage is how the recession and the voter mandate for less government spending may leave little room for change:
Even before the election, Congressional and USDA leadership were projecting the next Farm Bill to be the stingiest one in recent history. They predicted that there would be no additional money for new or expanded programs. In fact, 37 existing programs totaling $8-$10 billion are facing extinction in the next Farm Bill. Further pressure comes from the threat of budget reconciliation, a process by which Congress mandates cutbacks to existing programs, including those with mandatory funding and applies these savings to deficit reduction. Innovation in food and farm policy can be especially difficult in this kind of financial environment, when interest groups are circling the wagons to protect their existing programs and spending levels.
The recently released defficit reduction commission plan recommended cutting $3 billion from the Farm Bill.
Lots of folks would argue, OK, then, let’s begin to dismantle the direct payment to farmer subsidy system that accounts for billions of dollars.