The farm bill still hasn’t finalized, but an agreement could come in the next few days.
Finally, major points of contention are being settled, including the USDA’s spending on food stamps, school lunches, and other feeding programs (up to 80% of the farm bill’s budget), farm programs (about 15%), dairy price supports, agricultural research, meat inspection, treatment of livestock, food labeling, market reports, and so on.
So, what’s in the new farm bill anyways? What points of contention have resolved?
1. The Dairy Policy.
The farm bill will not include the long-debated dairy policy, championed by Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee. This proposal, requiring dairy farmers to cut production if prices dropped below a certain level, was ultimately overhauled.
Since the proposal was nixed, dairy farmers can expect to receive the same price supports when the gap between the price they receive for milk and their feed costs shrinks. So, the stabilization program for dairy farmers will persist, no thanks to Collin Peterson.
2. Food Stamps.
There will be significant cuts to food stamps. Over the next 10 years, a $9 billion cut from the food stamp program, formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is anticipated. Stricter eligibility standards will be implemented, with the intention of saving taxpayer money and boosting job creation efforts.
3. Country of Origin Labeling.
Should we all know the origin of our food?
That’s a long-standing question of debate amongst the USDA, the World Trade Organization, livestock producers and consumer advocacy groups. And it still seems to be up-in-the-air.
Page 881 of the farm bill states: “Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling of Beef, Pork, Lamb, Chicken, Goat Meat, Wild and Farm-raised Fish and Shellfish, Perishable Agricultural Commodities, Peanuts, Pecans, Ginseng and Macadamia Nuts.”
Clearly, the farm bill doesn’t seem to oppose the new “country of origin labeling” rules outlined by the Obama administration in 2013. So it follows, that labels must now present where the meat product was born, raised and slaughtered.
The “farm-to-fork” community and other consumer groups are in favor of the labeling rules. The livestock industry, however, is in strong opposition (especially big-time meat-packing companies, such as Tysons Foods). These companies have fought the new rules in federal court, arguing that these mandates are too high-maintenance and may cause troublesome trade relations with Canada, Mexico and other countries.
Thoughts on the new Farm Bill? Please share!
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