‘Food stamps’ funding comprises majority of Farm Bill
President Barack Obama signed HR 2642, the Agriculture Act of 2014 -- also known as the 2014 Farm Bill -- Feb. 7. Once again, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- better known as the Food Stamps program -- comprised almost 80 percent of the $956 billion legislative bill, which will fund ag sector programs through 2018. See “SNAP changes” for more.
Two programs established in previous farm bills were axed. The Average Crop Revenue Election, known as ACRE, added under the 2008 Farm Bill, and the Direct and Counter-cyclical Program (DCP) established with the 1996 Farm Bill were eliminated. Also, the controversial direct payments -- costing the United States $4.5 billion annually, were repealed.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) website, direct payments were available to producers with “eligible historical production” of crops such as wheat, corn, or grain sorghum. For the 2008-12 crop years, “producers enroll annually in the program to receive payments based on the respective producer’s historical program payment acres and yields rates specified in the 2008 Farm Act.” A formula was used to determine the payment received. One problem cited by members of Congress was the direct payments “are not tied to current production or prices and do not require any commodity production on the land.” In short, farmers were paid for not planting a crop, if they had an eligible historic production.
While cuts were made, the Center for Rural Affairs commented that the final Farm Bill left out loopholes that would limit farm program payments annually, which would increase the amount received by mega farms.
The group wrote in a Feb. 7 release that “this Farm Bill actually increases farm payment limits from $50,000 to $125,000 for the primary commodity program.”
With the new Farm Bill, the Secretary of Agriculture will reallocate the “base” to determine farm program payments. Farmers will have an opportunity to update their crop base using the yields from the 2009-12 crop years or keep their current base.
Also introduced in the Farm Bill is the “reference price covered commodity.” See “Price covered commodity” for the prices quoted in the Farm Bill. Farmers would receive additional help when the commodity’s national average marketing price is below the “target price.”
As previously reported, the livestock sector will receive $7 billion in assistance, retroactive to 2011. The dairy sector also had major reforms. See “COOL antagonists oppose Farm Bill,” Feb. 5 Wilson County News.
According to a House-Senate Conference Committee Agricultural Act of 2014 fact sheet, Congress repealed “outdated and ineffective dairy programs.” The new program now offers dairymen “a new, voluntary, margin protection program without imposing government-mandated supply controls.”
The new Farm Bill also:
•Repealed or consolidated nearly 100 programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including the consolidation of 23 existing programs into 13.
•Created a “Grow it Here, Make it Here” initiative by U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, which would “create new jobs in biomanufacturing (manufacturing using raw agricultural products grown in America).”
•Promotes the use of crop insurance, amounting to 9.4 percent, or $89.9 billion, for fiscal years 2014-2023, according to data from the Congressional Budget Office.
The Farm Bill also included the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the House-Senate Conference Committee, the 2014 Farm Bill “creates a permanent subcommittee with the EPA Science Advisory Board to conduct peer review of EPA actions that would negatively impact agriculture.”
As the agriculture sector continues to battle drought conditions in 55 percent of the United States, farmers and ranchers are considering their options for maximum profitability and awaiting interpretation of what federal programs will be available. It is estimated by the Texas Corn Producers that it will take several months before any farm program signup begins.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- better known as the Food Stamps Program -- has changed in the new Farm Bill.
Among the changes are:
•“Prohibits USDA from advertising or recruiting for SNAP
•“Ensures illegal immigrants, lottery winners, traditional college students, and the deceased do not receive SNAP benefits (nor anyone receive benefits in multiple states)
•“Prevents abuses such as water dumping to exchange bottles for cash
•“Increases assistance for food banks.”
Sources: House-Senate Conference Committee Agricultural Act of 2014 fact sheet and Florida Rep. Thomas J. Rooney Jan. 29 press release
Price covered commodity
The 2014 Farm Bill reference price for covered commodity includes:
Source: 2014 Farm Bill