The U.S. House voted yesterday morning and passed the 959 page Farm Bill which could be considered a gift to the rich and a take away for the poor. Perhaps the one good thing coming out of this year's farm bill (which will be in effect for five years) is that farmers will not get cut a direct check from Uncle Sam. Many farmers have been getting paid with taxpayer money not to farm and though the new scheme would propel them to farm, it would still guarantee them from incurring losses on their crops. The bill will cut food stamp subsidies by $800 million a year which comes to about a 1% decrease in the SNAP program. The entire farm bill is expected to cost approximately $95 billion annually, for which the federal government needs to borrow to pay as it does not have enough income to cover the expense. The last farm bill, passed in 2008, cost $64 billion annually - a 48% increase in federal spending for taxpayers over the next five years.
There will be a new insurance program aimed at guaranteeing a floor price for farmer's crops. The new bill will also consolidate 23 conservation programs into 13. It will also enact new labeling of some food products denoting their country of origin.
Florida Senator Bill Nelson garnered approximately $125 million in extra subsidies for Florida citrus growers under the new bill. “This means people will still have orange juice to drink,” he said in a statement.
One item of interest is the federal government will now allow limited studies on industrial hemp in the United States. Hemp was used in the United States for decades until 1937 when Congress banned growing hemp because it was thought to have the effect of, and looks like, the cannabis plant. Most now know there is no way to get high from hemp and there has been a growing number of Americans, especially libertarians, calling for farmers to again be able to grow the plant. Although hemp products are widely available and legal in America it remains illegal to grow it in the United States, so all hemp is imported. U.S. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has long been supportive of the re-legalization of hemp.
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, chair of the U.S. Senate Agricultural panel said on Monday the "bipartisan agreement puts us on the verge of enacting a five-year Farm Bill that saves taxpayers billions, eliminates unnecessary subsidies, creates a more effective farm safety-net and helps farmers and businesses create jobs," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat who chairs the Senate agriculture panel. Overall, the new farm bill will save tax payers approximately $1.65 billion annually.
Indiana Rep. Marlin Stutzman said, "It spends money we simply don't have."