Although the name may suggest otherwise, the Farm Bill up for consideration in Congress this week affects far more than just rural farmers.
The bill is renewed around every five years and recently expired at the beginning of October. The Senate and House each have their own versions they want to see passed.
One of the biggest differences between the House and Senate lies in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the country's food stamp program. According to the Associated Press, about 80 percent of all farm and food stamp spending goes to SNAP. In the House's version of the bill, $40 billion would be cut from the program over the next decade. However, the Senate's version would cut just $4.5 billion.
Along with SNAP, the price of milk at the grocery store would also suffer if the bill is not passed. Without it, milk price supports dating back to 1949 will expire, sending the price of milk to around $8 per gallon because the government would be forced to buy it at above market price.
The price of meat could be impacted if the Livestock Indemnity Program is not reinstated. The program expired along with the rest of the bill in early October, just before a blizzard wiped out tens of thousands of cattle in South Dakota. Under the program, farmers receive compensation for livestock killed in natural disasters. The South Dakota disaster could drive up meat prices due to the cut in the beef supply.
One area the Senate and the House both agree on is direct payments and crop insurance. Direct payments are given to farmers each year, regardless of whether they have good crops. Both the House and the Senate want to drop the $5 billion that provides those subsidies, and some groups in support of farmers agree.
Even with the likely loss of direct payments, both bills would also increase crop insurance subsidies and lower the targets for subsidies paid to farmers if prices drop below a certain level.
The chambers are expected to meet this week to iron out the differences between their respective bills.
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