Thursday, January 30, 2014

Farm Bill winners, losers, and plenty of opinions

Now that the Farm Bill has passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Obama, here's a look at some of the stories being written about the bill.

Dairy farmers welcome the bill's subsidy overhaul, reports M.L Johnson for The Associated Press. "Farmers expressed relief this week that a long fight over federal dairy subsidies had ended with an overhaul that most thought would be fair and effective in keeping farms from going under during hard times." (Read more)

One provision, "tucked into page 735 of the 949-page farm bill, could make it more difficult for gasoline blended with higher concentrations of ethanol to find its way to rural areas, where demand for the fuel is greatest," Cezary Podkul reports for Reuters. "That, in turn, could make it more difficult for the United States to implement a program known as the renewable fuel standard, or RFS, which mandates increasing amounts of biofuels like corn-based ethanol be blended into the nation's fuel supply." (Read more)

"Soybean and catfish farmers, dairy food manufacturers, U.S. cattlemen and the organic food industry all counted themselves among the big winners," Bill Tomson and Tarini Parti report for Politico. "Much less pleased are meat processors, champions of the food stamp program and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)," who sponsored an amendment "that would have prohibited states from regulating other states’ means of agricultural production." (Read more)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, took a major hit, with $8 billion in cuts, Alan Bjera reports for Bloomberg. "The bill would cut food-stamp spending by $8.6 billion over 10 years, though additions to other programs bring nutrition-aid cuts down to $8 billion—one-fifth of the $40 billion sought by Republicans and fought by Democrats and food retailers." (Read more)

Passage of the farm bill is a huge victory for House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), "who was whipsawed by his own party throughout much of 2013 over the costs of the bill and demands for more spending cuts," writes Chris Clayton for DTN The Progressive Farmer. "Nonetheless, he was able to successfully navigate a compromise bill through the chamber." (Read more)

Katie Valentine, of Think Progress, takes a look at what the bill means for energy and the environment, writing that it "has been heralded as a win for conservationists, but it’s got some pitfalls, too." (Read more)

President Obama should veto the bill, opines The Washington Post. "We hope Mr. Obama will pick up the phone, call Congress—and tell them he’s preparing his veto pen for the 2014 farm bill. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that this legislative grotesquerie gives to the rich and takes from the poor." (Read more)

The bill "makes some of the most significant reforms to wasteful agriculture subsidies in many years, and it contains dozens of important provisions designed to increase employment in rural areas and save lives with farsighted crop research," reports The New York Times. "It preserves some important environmental protections, while cutting others. And though its food-stamp provisions were saved from being much worse, they will still reduce benefits for too many poor people. On balance, the bill is clearly worthy of support, particularly because it will prevent austerity fanatics in future Congresses from gutting food stamps for the next five years." (Read more)

Backers of the farm bill "are patting themselves on the back for saving billions by eliminating a huge wasteful farm subsidy program. Don't believe the hype," Michael Hiltzik writes for The Economy Hub. "The conservative American Enterprise Institute says the measure could cost taxpayers $15 billion more per year than do existing crop programs, much of it going to the wealthiest farmers and the crop insurance industry." (Read more)

Farm Policy has a copy of the farm bill debate transcript, which can be accessed by clicking here.

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