Things you didn't know may be in the Farm Bill

Different grains Anne grows at CPO. Photo: Anne Riordan.

Different grains Anne grows at CPO. Photo: Anne Riordan.

In New Orleans last Friday, President Obama said Congress' top priority right now should be getting a Farm Bill done, finally:

“Congress needs to pass a farm bill that helps rural communities grow and protects vulnerable Americans,” Obama said. “For decades, Congress found a way to compromise and pass farm bills without fuss. For some reason, now Congress can't even get that done."

We're ending week two since the House-Senate conference committee started meeting to resolve the vastly different versions of the bill each house has passed. Here are a few things happening right now in those negotiations you may not know about:

– One of the biggest changes proposed is to end most direct payments to farmers, to be replaced by crop insurance programs. But in a report exposing that the direct subsidy program paid more than $11 million in taxpayer money to billionaires from 1995-2012, the Environmental Working Group points out that at least the direct payment program had income limits (not sure how the billionaires squeaked through those). EWG's Scott Faber told the New York Times crop insurance programs will have no income limits under the current Farm Bill proposal:

“So basically the bills would allow billionaires to get even more in subsidies, all without taxpayers knowing who they are, while imposing draconian requirements on low-income people,” Mr. Faber said.

According to the Working Group’s analysis, more than 40 billionaires own properties where crops are grown that are among the most likely to be insured through the federal program, including corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and sorghum.

– The Associated Press is reporting a provision in the House version would prohibit the government from disclosing information about farmers or their employees:

The House version of the legislation would prevent the EPA from disclosing the addresses, among other identifying information, of an owner, operator or employee of an agricultural operation.

The provision is an effort to protect farmers from anti-animal cruelty groups, like the Humane Society. (Someday I need to do a post on the war between farm groups and the Human Society.)

– There's an effort in the House to repeal the Country of Origin Labeling Law, or COOL, which requires most meat sold in the U.S. to carry a label stating its source. The law was passed in 2002, but not implemented until 2009. According to Politico's new – and very useful – daily briefing Morning Agriculture, the law would be replaced, in part or in full, with "a call for a study". Reuters has a few more details here.

– Of course, the big showdown is over cuts to food stamps. The House wants $40 billion in cuts over five years; the Senate wants $4 billion. That's a huge difference, and it's triggered a huge national debate that's still very much playing out.

What am I missing? What other elements of the proposed Farm Bill have you seen or heard about? Help us shed light on them here at The Dirt. Comment below!

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One Comment

  1. David,
    You've quoted two very dubious sources, the EWG and HSUS. Both have questionable pasts when presenting information.
    HSUS is not an animal cruelty group but rather a vegan organization which is determined to destroy animal agriculture by any means.
    The EWG has been exaggerating farm facts for years.