Five Things To Know About The Farm Bill
President Barack Obama signed the $956 billion farm bill into law today.
It took lawmakers nearly four years to finalize the 959-page Agricultural Act of 2014, which is expected to reduce federal spending by $16 billion over the next decade.
Here are some of its most talked-about provisions:
- Direct subsidies are over. The government used to pay farmers for their crops — whether they grew them or not. Instead, the bill offers new insurance that's only doled out when farmers experience financial loss. But the provisions still keep secret who receives those subsidies. Even if the beneficiary is a member of the government.
- Dairy prices. They're expected to drop. The government-administered insurance would cover dairy farmers when the price between milk and cow feed shrinks too much, thus keeping milk prices steady and transferring those savings to grocery stores.
- Food stamp cuts. One percent of the program — that's $8.6 billion — will be cut over the next decade. That's a lot less than the $40 billion some Republicans wanted. Regardless, the cut will reduce payments by about $90 for the 1 in 7 Americans on the program. A major reduction in costs comes from prohibiting the Agriculture Department from advertising to recruit new beneficiaries. It's also got provisions that will ensure lottery winners and college students (among other ineligible parties) can't receive food stamps, and that people can't collect the money in multiple states.
- Food labeling. It outlines mandatory country-of-origin labeling for all meats, nuts and perishable food items. Those labels will detail where a meat product was born, raised and slaughtered. Big meat-packing companies aren't happy with the new rules.
- Hemp. This strain of Cannabis saliva can be useful for important things like building material and biofuel. Colleges and universities will now be authorized to grow industrial hemp for research purposes, but only in states where hemp production is legal. Louisiana isn't one of those nine states, but with Gov. Bobby Jindal's recent show of medical-marijuana support, perhaps such legislation isn't too far away.