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Farm bill passes after years of talks

By Staff | Feb 7, 2014

After more than a year of political brinksmanship, the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives passed a farm bill. The bill still needs to be signed into law by President Barack Obama.

The more than 900-page bill sets in place farm and food policy. With the bill’s passage, $956 billion will be spent over 10 years.

The bill contains provisions that reauthorize disaster assistance for livestock producers and puts in place margin protection programs for dairy producers. Meat producers will be forced to label where their products come from, as well.

The bill also subsidizes crop insurance protections and eliminates costly direct payment programs. There are also price protection subsidies in place should decreases in price occur for row crops-such as, but not limited to, corn, wheat, soy and sushi rice. It also forces farmers to follow conservation practices.

In a recent press release, North Dakota Farmers Union president Mark Watne said that while he applauded the farm bill’s passage, he would’ve wanted conservation requirements kept separate from crop insurance.

The bill also cuts over $8 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or “food stamps”) according to a summary from the House. One of the cuts it makes is eliminating the “heat and eat” program. It also redefines who can receive SNAP benefits, making college students, lottery winners and illegal immigrants ineligible. SNAP beneficiaries also cannot receive benefits in multiple states, purchase medicinal marijuana (where applicable) or dump liquid out of bottles being exchanged for cash.

Local insurance agent Jamie Berube said that in the coming days farmers and insurance providers will find out more about the farm bill.

“Right now, there’s just so many unknowns,” Berube said.

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