Monday, April 11, 2011

F is for Farm Bill

Every five years or so, national food, nutrition, and farm priorities are debated and set with omnibus policy and appropriations legislation know as The Farm Bill.

And, the process is already under way as the fiscal year 2011 budget debate rages with a government shutdown barely avoided this past week.

Over the coming weeks, I will be posting more about the current and upcoming Farm Bill debates and sustainable agriculture issues an priorities and ways YOU can get involved. For now, here's a run down of the current Farm Bill.

The farm bill encompasses a lot!

There are currently 15 titles in the Farm Bill:

I. Commodities – wheat, feed grains, cotton, rice, oilseeds, peanuts, sugar, and dairy. Direct payments, counter-cyclical payments, and marketing loans. The government also supports commodities with purchases of dairy and marketing quotas and import barriers for sugar. $8.3 billion per year.

II. Conservation – farmland conservation, preservation, and protection. $4.8 billion per year.

III. Agricultural Trade andFood Aid – Agricultural exports and international food assistance programs. $400 million per year.

IV. Nutrition – Domestic food and nutrition and commodity distribution programs, aka SNAP - supplemental nutrition assistance program. $38 billion per year.

V. Farm Credit – Federal direct and guaranteed farm loan programs. (FARMER-MAC).

VI. Rural Development – Business and community planning and feasibility assessments and coordination activities with local, state, and federal programs, including rural broadband access.

VII. Research – Agriculture research and extension programs including bio-security and response, biotechnology, and organic production.

VIII. Forestry – USDA forest service programs, including forestry management, enhancement, and agro-forestry.

IX. Energy – Bio-energy programs and grants for procurement of biobased products to support development of biorefineries and assist eligible farmers and rural small businesses in purchasing renewable energy systems as well as user education programs.

X. Horticulture and Organic Agriculture – (new title in 2008 bill) Covers fruit, vegetables, and other specialty crops (food) and organic agriculture.

XI. Livestock – (new title in 2008 bill) Covers livestock and poultry production, including provisions that amend existing laws governing livestock and poultry marketing and competition, country-of-origin labeling (COOL) requirements for retailers, and meat and poultry state inspections, among other provisions.

XII. Crop Insurance and disaster assistance – (new title in 2008 bill)

XIII. Commodity futures – (new title in 2008 bill) Covers reauthorization of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and other changes to current law.

XIV. Miscellaneous – Other types of programs not covered by other titles, including provisions to assist limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and agricultural security, among others.

XV. Trade and Tax provisions - (new title in 2008 bill) Covers tax-related provisions intended to offset spending initiatives for some programs including those in nutrition, conservation, and energy titles. This title also contains other provisions, including the new supplemental disaster assistance and disaster relief trust fund, and other tax-related provisions such as customs user fees.

What does is Cost?

The estimated 5 year cost of the 2008 farm bill is $284 billion.

An overwhelming amount (97%) of that is spent on four titles:

Nutrition - 67%

Commodity Support payments – 15%

Conservation – 9%

Crop Insurance – 8%