2014-02-18 / Front Page

President Signs 2014 Farm Bill Into Law, Cutting Food Stamps

Staff Report

A bipartisan effort has received executive approval as President Barack Obama signed the Agriculture Act of 2014 into law in East Lansing, Michigan last Friday.

The bill includes an eight billion dollar reduction in the nation’s food stamp program over the next decade, resulting in a $90 monthly reduction in benefits for approximately 850,000 American families. However, legislators in Washington chose to increase funding for food banks by $200,000,000, a large amount, but far from the eight billion dollars in cuts to families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) assistance.

“As I keep in constant contact with my Agriculture Advisory Committee, I consistently hear from them that the status quo is inefficient and unacceptable. The bottom line is that the agriculture community needs a farm bill and I’m pleased that the House approved this agreement,” Indiana Eight District U.S. Congressman Larry Bucshon (R-Evansville) said after voting in favor of the bill. “While it is not perfect, this five-year comprehensive bill provides the much-needed certainty for Hoosier family farmers. We save $16.6 billion, end direct payments, increase accountability within federal programs, and provide regulatory relief. We also renew funds that support rural communities with large amounts of federal lands, which is vitally important for southern Indiana counties to provide critical services to their citizens. Overall, this bill simply makes sense for the Hoosier state, our agriculture community, and our economy.”

The bill provides an increase of $80,000,000 to the U.S Agency for International Development in order to purchase food supplies closer to disaster affected areas, rather than shipping food from the U.S.

The bill also provides incentives for farmers’ markets, increasing the ability for SNAP recipients to shop at them.

“In a strong bipartisan vote, the U.S. Senate came together to pass a comprehensive farm bill – legislation that will build on the historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, create new jobs and opportunities, and protect the most vulnerable Americans,” President Obama said. “This bill provides certainty to America’s farmers and ranchers, and contains a variety of commonsense reforms that my administration has consistently called for, including reforming and eliminating direct farm subsidies and providing assistance for farmers when they need it most. It will continue reducing our deficits without gutting the vital assistance programs millions of hardworking Americans count on to help put food on the table for their families. And it will support conservation of valuable lands, spur the development of renewable energy, and incentivize healthier nutrition for all Americans. As with any compromise, the farm bill isn’t perfect – but on the whole, it will make a positive difference not only for the rural economies that grow America’s food, but for our nation.”

Under the new legislation, American farmers will no longer receive $5,000,000 in direct payment subsidies, adding some of those funds to the federal government-subsidized crop insurance to farmers growing speciality crops. The U.S. pays 62 percent of premiums for the nine billion dollar insurance program. The cuts are in an effort to ensure only farmers who grow crops receive subsidies and only when affected by disaster such as drought and flood.

“I’m glad it passed and I would encourage everyone with an interest to learn what all is included, because most people don’t realize how much of it is actually designated toward food stamps and helping people have more to eat, rather than actually going to farmers who are impacted by drought, floods or hail and things,” Purdue Extension-Owen County Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator Jenna Smith said. “What impacts farmers is how much is designated for crop insurance, because if there isn’t money given in that area and a farmer experiences a drought, flood or hail damage, they won’t be fully compensated for their lost harvest. If they don’t receive their harvest and what they could have produced, they will have problems with operating money to continue producing in future years.”

The 956 billion dollar, ten-year plan increases spending compared with the farm bill of 2008 by 49 percent, and 80 percent of the legislation spending has no direct link to farming. The majority of subsidy funds are benefitting growers of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice. A large portion keeps costs down for livestock producers purchasing feed for cattle, hogs and chickens.

“Today’s action will allow the proud men and women who feed millions around the world to invest confidently in the future,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. “Our communities will have additional support to attract new economic opportunity and create jobs. During difficult times, children, working families, seniors and people with disabilities will have access to nutritious food. The potential of new products, treatments and discoveries will be strengthened through new agricultural research. Renewed conservation efforts will protect our fields, forests and waters creating new tourism options. This legislation is important to the entire nation.

“Building on the historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, this bill will accomplish those goals while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. While no legislation is perfect, this bill is a strong investment in American agriculture and supports the continued global leadership of our farmers and ranchers.”

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