U.S.: House moves forward on long-awaited Farm Bill

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U.S.: House moves forward on long-awaited Farm Bill

In a 251-166 vote yesterday, the United States House of Representative moved one step closer to renovating the five-year farm bill.800px-United_States_Capitol_rotunda

The Senate could vote on the almost US$100 billion-a-year bill as early as today, permitting the president to sign off on the long-awaited legislation.

The extensive acts covers an array of U.S. agricultural and food policies, ranging from nutritional assistance programs to rural development to industry research.

Although the bill is typically passed every five years by Congress, it has been stalled for two legislative sessions now, bogged down by partisan debate and budget concerns.

The current proposed legislation would enact savings of US$16.6 billion over ten years, compared to the US$51.8 billion in savings previously pushed by the House, the Congressional Budget Committee said.

Of the bill's US$956 billion, 10-year budget, US$756 billion has been slated for nutrition programs, including the hotly debated Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as food stamps.

The conference agreement would cut US$8 billion over 10 years from SNAP, down from the US$39 billion cut that had been previously proposed by the House.

Although a modest drop in the bucket, specialty crop advocates praised the bill for a 55% funding increase over the 2008 farm bill in "critical produce industry initiatives and programs," according to United Fresh.

Title V for horticulture was granted US$1.76 billion over the 10-year budget, starting with US$163 million in allocations in 2014 and growing to US$182 million in 2023.

The title equates to US$694 million over 10 years in additional spending on horticulture, including US$270 million for specialty crop block grants, US$193 million for pest and disease managment, and US$150 million in farmers markets and local food promotion.

Rep. Suzan Delbene (WA-1) described the increase as an "unprecedented investment in specialty crops," while Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16) called the specialty crop investment "dramatic."

The bill also includes a notable increase of US$5.7 billion on crop insurance provisions. This category intends to alleviate losses due to poor yields or other dips in revenue.

The increase in insurance spending is contrasted by US$14.3 billion in cuts to commodity programs, in particular to so-called "direct payments." This US$4.5 billion-a-year program subsidizes farmers whether they produce crops or not. The Congressional Budget Office estimated US$40.8 billion in savings by eliminating such payments.

Related stories: U.S.: Agricultural Act of 2014 gains support from specialty crop group

“Too many amendments” quashed Farm Bill, says United Fresh

Photo: U.S. Capitol rotunda, Samuel Louie via Wikimedia Commons


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