Farm Bill: Best Available Option

The Farm Bill passed recently by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate isn’t perfect.

The bill cuts SNAP, the nation’s food stamp program, by $8.6 billion over 10 years and restricts states’ efforts to boost federal food stamp benefits by providing small amounts of unneeded heating assistance that triggered higher benefits. Those cuts will certainly hurt the poor living in the frigid northeast.

Farmers will no longer receive subsidies called direct payments that paid farmers whether or not they actually farmed over the course of a year, instead taking part in additional crop insurance programs. The decades-old practice of setting minimum prices for dairy products will end, with the new Farm Bill instead offering insurance to dairy farmers to protect them from falling prices or rising feed prices.

State Sen. Catharine Young touts the new insurance program as especially helpful to farmers with less than 200 cows because it will provide small farms with more affordable insurance premiums. The New York Farm Bureau also touts the bill’s research and support programs that will help New York’s growing organic and local food programs and encourage expansion of maple production.

As is the case with most bi-partisan legislation, neither political party nor key stakeholders in the debate got everything they wanted from the 2014 Farm Bill. It is the best bill available after three years of debate and gridlock and saves between $16 and $23 billion over the next 10 years.

It should be signed by President Barack Obama.