What is the farm bill? What was its initial purpose?
Established during the 1933 Great Depression, the farm bill was created to serve as the federal government’s primary agricultural and food policy tool.
Initially dubbed the Agriculture Adjustment Act (AAA), this bill provided financial assistance to farmers who were struggling as a result of excess crop supply creating low prices, and also to manage and ensure an adequate food supply. The bill allowed farmers to receive payment for not growing food on a percentage of their land as parceled out by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. What’s more, it enabled the government to buy excess grain from farmers, which could then be sold later if unfavorable weather or unforeseeable circumstances negatively impacted output. Also enacted by the AAA was a nutrition program – the predecessor of the current (and much-debated) food stamp program.
The bill has come a long way since its enactment, though not with ease. The bill is a source of intense controversy as it impacts many sectors: international trade, environmental conservation, food safety, and the welfare of rural communities. Agricultural subsidy programs mandated by the farm bill are especially debated within the U.S.; hence, the farm bill’s recent series of setbacks.
Much to the agricultural community’s relief, the heavy, long-winded farm bill proceedings finally reached closure on February 7, 2014.
Now freshly passed, the 2014 farm bill promises new technical and financial benefits both to agricultural producers and the environment. A vast array of agricultural programs will receive financial assistance, including USDA programs and conservation programs. The support is intended to 1) help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners continue to address natural resource concerns on their land, 2) enhance the nation’s conservation investments, and 3) streamline conservation efforts.
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