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Published on March 16, 2014

Author: stevenlanglin

Source: authorstream.com

2014 Farm Bill: 2014 Farm Bill By Steven Langlin Finally Passes!: Finally Passes! As noted in the previous presentations, the Farm Bill is supposed to be renewed every five years. This was technically supposed to be passed last year as the last one passed was in 2008, but mainly the House of Representatives has been stagnant on a number of issues, this being one of them. One was finally passed by both the House and the Senate in late January/early February. The current farm bill, known as the Agricultural Act of 2014, covers 2014-2018 . Agricultural Act of 2014: Agricultural Act of 2014 Democrats and Republicans struggled to come to an agreement on this bill which was supposed to be passed in 2012. The largest problem area for legislators was within the SNAP program, commonly known as Food Stamps. House Republicans advocated for more cuts to food stamps and wanted more focus on programs that helped the people on public assistance find ways to wean themselves off the service. Democrats advocated that the cuts to food stamps was too harsh, and that as our economy has not fully recovered yet we shouldn’t deny these necessary benefits to those that need them. In the end, a reduction in $8 billion in SNAP was agreed to, much less than the Republican-proposed $39 billion, and more than the Democrat-proposed $4 billlion . Area of Contention: Area of Contention Congress agreed to set a new threshold for how residents qualify for SNAP under the bill. It used to be that people needed to receive only $1 in heating assistance to qualify for food stamps, but the new bill saw an agreement where residents had to receive at least $20 in heating assistance. This is estimated to save $8.6 billion. Democrats argue that this cut is too steep to families in need but does little to scale back on the amount of money that wealthier farmers receive from the program. The Republicans, concerned with our national debt, sought a $160 billion cut overall, but settled for $23 billion in cuts. But the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that over a decade only $16.6 billion will ultimately be saved. End of an Era: End of an Era The Agricultural Act of 2014 is revolutionary in that it ends direct payments to farmers, something that has been in place for 82 years. This means that farmers are no longer guaranteed specific payments regardless of how their crop performs. The federal government’s also taking on more risk as it’s making crop insurance cheaper and paying out more in specific circumstances. It may end up being more expensive and harmful to the nation’s debt if the federal government ends up paying more under this program. Environmentalists’ “beef” and Transparency Trouble: Environmentalists’ “beef” and Transparency Trouble Environmentalists are not thrilled with the new bill even though the bill tries to discourage people from taking grassland and making it into cropland by limited the ability to collect subsidies for a few years. But it also consolidates 23 conservation programs into 13 to save $6 billion over the next decade. It also lowers the Conservation Reserve Program’s maximum acreage down to 24 million acres to 32 million, meaning it’s less likely that people will convert their extra land into grasslands for natural habitats. Lovers of transparent government will also be disappointed that there’s no provision requiring Congressmen to disclose how much they’re benefiting from farm subsidies, either. The final bill was passed leaving out the provision that requires members of Congress. The House’s original version of the bill actually included this, but it was dropped in the Senate and ultimately both chambers agreed to pass the bill without requiring disclosures. Conclusion: Conclusion The Agricultural Act of 2014 provided a much-needed bill that was overdue. It was a true compromise: food stamp cuts, environmental concerns addressed and the ending of guaranteed direct payments. It left everyone feeling they could have received more, but did address everyone’s concerns. It’s certainly not perfect, and those facing food stamp cuts will undoubtedly face hard times. The failure of Congress to disclose profits from farm subsidies will inevitably strengthen the already-prevalent public mistrust of our elected officials. By law, the issue will be revisited at a later date. Works Cited: Works Cited http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/196819-house-passes-956b-farm-bill http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/01/29/3218151/farm-energy-environment/# http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/04/politics/farm-bill/ https://agriculture.house.gov/farmbill http://agriculture.house.gov/sites/republicans.agriculture.house.gov/files/pdf/legislation/AgriculturalActSummary.pdf

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