WASHINGTON, D.C. — For the last year, one bill in particular has been highly overlooked, and extremely important.
On February 4, 2014, the almost $1 trillion farm bill received its final approval from the Senate. From there, the bill was sent to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.
The farm bill, more appropriately considered to be a food bill, sets in stone five years of nutrition and farming policy in the United States. This will include what is grown, what you know about what you are eating, and how much the government will spend in the process.
This bill also cuts the food stamp program and increases spending on farmers markets. Here are five uncommonly known things about the farm bill, that may be important to you:
1. What goes into your body
The farm bill will make the executive decision on which crops the U.S. government will encourage or protect. Whichever crops are decided on, will receive incentives for being grown. The “most subsidized crops” in this farm bill are things such as wheat, soy, and corn – similar to farm bills of the past. Due to this bill and those like it, corn will remain one of, if not the most, reliable sources of food.
2. The things lawmakers won’t tell you
Similar to farmers, members of Congress who own farmland will be able to receive crop insurance subsidies. A House measure that would require members of congress and the president’s cabinet to report what they receive on crop insurance aid was entirely left out. There also was an omission of a Senate-backed provision that would limit premium subsidies for the “wealthiest farmers.”
3. Getting to know your meat
With the farm bill, a new requirement states that pork, chicken or beef sold in the U.S must include details on “where the animal was born, slaughtered and processed.” This fight over product labeling has gone on for quite some time.
These labels have been on packages of meat since the fall, but Mexican and Canadian meat producers have fought tooth and nail to have this clause reversed in the farm bill. This means that if your meat is from the United States, Australia, Canada or Mexico, you will know it.
4. Federal government will take more risks, so farmers won’t have to
The bill will end guaranteed payments that farmers currently receive regardless of their harvest quality or crop prices. These “direct payments” have been in place for roughly 82 years, and many farm values have become based on the dependency or expectation of government funds.
To compensate, the farm bill enhances a subsidy for crop insurance. This will allow to the government to make crop insurance cheaper and will pay out some benefits at lower levels than previously was done. In turn, this will make farming less of a risk. The risk is transferred to the federal government. Meaning, that if the crop prices plummet, or a disaster strikes, the deficit goes down the drain.
5. Houston, we have land problems
With the sudden surge in desire to “scoop up” farming profits, the increase of plowing virgin lands in the U.S has seen a surge as well. Rural areas, however, are facing more soil erosion and other land issues that have worked their way in for generations.
The farm bill does something to address both of these problems. Farmers who want subsidies have to follow an extensive program of conservation practices. It also cuts subsidies in half for people who farm on some virgin sod, in the aim to protect more prairie land. While environmentalists are applauding the efforts of these provisions, the bill does cut spending on government conservation programs overall.
– Samaria Garrett