Farm Bill Cuts, Adds and Changes Programs
This past week representatives from the House and Senate agriculture committees finally came to an agreement on a new farm bill. See how your Representative voted on final passage of the bill here; see how your Senators voted here. While not perfect, the conference report that was subsequently passed by both houses of Congress avoided the most draconian proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The bill also cut some farm subsidies and farm conservation programs. The bill will replace direct payments to farmers that grow certain types of crops, with an expanded, and subsidized, insurance program to help farmers manage their risk; however, it also reinstates a requirement that farms must comply with basic soil and water conservation measures in order to receive crop insurance subsidies.
SNAP did suffer a small cut – a number of states had been giving automatic SNAP eligibility to those who receive assistance under another federal poverty program – the LIHEAP program that helps low income people pay heating and cooling costs. Under the new farm bill people who receive less than $20 in LIHEAP assistance will not be automatically eligible for SNAP, which will save the program more than $8 billion over 10 years. Some of the savings from this change in eligibility were used to increase funding for other programs in the nutrition title, including TEFAP, the emergency food program which helps to supply many food banks, and a program that provides additional benefits to SNAP recipients when they purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets. For a thorough explanation of the changes in eligibility to the SNAP program, read the excellent analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities here.
In addition, the farm bill provides funding to continue the local purchase program for international food aid. This program, begun as a pilot in the 2008 farm bill, allows the U.S. Agency for International Development to purchase commodities under the Food for Peace program to respond to humanitarian crises in the country or region where it will be used, rather than shipping it from U.S. growers, as a means of supporting agriculture in the affected region and a more efficient use of taxpayer funds.
To find out more about cuts to subsidies and conservation programs, go to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s web page.
Thanks to each of you who sent letters or made phone calls on the farm bill over the past two years – your advocacy made a difference!