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The Farm Bill: Description and Analysis

Introduction

At the present time, the Farm Bill can be considered one of the most controversial bills in the nation’s history. It is an important bill as it has a considerable impact not only on the farmers but also on the consumers. Aside from the issue of spending, the bill covers a variety of innovative programs that are currently altering the farming arena for farmers and consumers in America. Furthermore, this bill is intended to regulate a variety of issues, such as the development of rural areas, international trade, local food systems, research, racial equality, as well as forestry, among others. Nevertheless, the Farm Bill has been criticized lately due to concern that it could lead to the scrapping of MSP. Accordingly, the bill should be analyzed from different perspectives in order to identify its potential influence on the area of farming in the country.

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Description of the Bill

Initially, this bill was created with the purpose of reauthorizing numerous expenditures in the Agricultural Act of 2014. As a result, in 2018, Congress passed a farm bill worth more than $867 billion with huge bipartisan support. In fact, it was prompted by the pressure exerted by farmers who felt the impact of the decision by the trade war imposed by President Trump on China (Imhoff & Badaracco, 2019). The bill was passed by a vote of 386-47, where the House of Representatives approved the bill that allocates subsidies worth billions of dollars to farmers in America. The main goal of this bill was described as making hemp legal and improving farmers’ markets. President Trump signed it into law on December 20, 2018. Negotiators in Congress said that they were bombarded with demands to finalize the bill from ranchers and farmers. These individuals have experienced huge declines in prices of commodities as a result of the disputed trade war with China.

After the bill was passed, Sonny Perdue, the Agriculture Secretary, highlighted that the passage of the Farm Bill in 2019 was a significant contribution to the area of farming (McClure, 2019). This person explained this position by stating that the bill offers ranchers and farmers a safety net, as they need the certainty and dependability that the legislation offers. Despite all the efforts from legislators, the bill has faced plenty of criticism from different individuals, including Republicans who were conservative. For instance, Charles E. Grassley, a senator from R-Iowa, as one of the two farmers present in the Senate and an associate of the Agriculture Committee, voted against the proposal due to the expansion of subsidies from the federal government to other relatives of the farmer. Grassley, alongside eight other Republicans, joined forces to oppose the measure, which received support from other Democrats in the Senate.

Implementation of different approaches by the Senate and House to food stamps and the (SNAP) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can be considered the most considerable but controversial issue in the Farm Bill. In fact, food stamp cuts are not included in the bill. Moreover, the Farm Bill was predicted to lead to the imposition of work requirements in the case of older workers’ food stamps. This includes those aged between 49 to 59, including parents with children between the ages of 6 to 12 (Imhoff & Badaracco, 2019). It is predicted that the proposals would lead to cut benefits for more than one million households, although Republicans and conservatives disagreed with these numbers.

In turn, liberal groups mainly express a positive point of view in terms of this bill. Currently, the negotiators seem to have struck a compromise that is bipartisan and maintains and also strengthens SNAP. Subsequently, it ensures that millions of Americans who are still struggling continue to count on the program to help them get food on the table. At the same time, the president of the Center on policy and budget priorities, Robert Greenstein, indicated that the bill included revisions of SNAP, thereby shrinking the benefits to individuals (Imhoff & Badaracco, 2019). The final bill encompasses a number of new changes to the program, although none of them will restrict benefits to families, according to aides in Congress. The National Accuracy Clearinghouse may prevent people in multiple states from receiving benefits from food stamps. The final version of the farm bill does away with the award program that awarded states with $48 million per year in funding from the Federal government. It was mainly done due to the high-performance level in terms of accuracy of payments and access programs.

Presently, the savings obtained from these changes may be plowed back into nutritional assistance programs and food banks. The White House is not being bound on food stamps by Congress. The Trump administration has shown its intention to cut the provision for food stamps without Congressional approval, and the farm bill does not tie the hands of the White House. They go on to state that the Agricultural Department has weakened the waivers that it gives to states to suspend the requirements for food stamp work temporarily (Lichtenberg, 2019). The Farm Bill included the expansion of farm subsidies. In other words, this bill has some provisions that were passed by House Republicans, leading to the expansion of some agricultural subsidies by the federal government.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), which keeps track of subsidies from the federal government, is against this provision, calling it a waste. In turn, at nearly $1 trillion per annum, the price tag of the farm bill is high (McClure, 2019). Drafters of the bill used baselines set by the budget office of Congress under current levels of spending of nearly $900 billion over the coming ten years (American Heart Association, 2019). Therefore, it will not increase the deficit of the federal government from previous projections.

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Currently, the bill creates a permanent fund for markets for farmers and local food programs. The complete farm bill avails permanent funds for different programs that Congress funds on a temporary criterion, five years for each time. It includes funds to promote farmers’ markets and organic farming research grants. Apart from this, some financial resources are invested in organizations training potential farmer generations during a period when experts have raised concerns about industry aging.

In 2018, president Donald Trump indicated that the Farm Bill had support from different perspectives of government and society (American Heart Association, 2019). The agreement for conferences holds the Conservation Stewardship Program by USDA, which is utilized by farm and forest landowners. In turn, when it comes to the preservation of conservation programs, the House Republican bill had set proposals to merge the Conservation Stewardship Program (Lichtenberg, 2019). This program was intended to reward farmers for their strong conservation efforts with a different branch of the Agricultural department. At the same time, aides indicate that the program was passed in the final version of the bill (American Heart Association, 2019). Also, it is essential to note that the bill legalizes the growth of hemp. Consequently, the Farm Bill makes it legal to produce hemp, which is a type of Cannabis with lower levels of THC than marijuana.

It is predicted that the hemp industry may grow to a $20 billion industry by the year 2022. The majority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, tabled the hemp legislation in 2018 and pushed for its inclusion in the revised Farm Bill (Imhoff & Badaracco, 2019). He was involved in the joint committee’s conference on the Farm Bill and was among the members who signed the bill’s compromise. The provision by McConnell would effectively remove the classification of hemp from the list of controlled substances by the federal government, making it a legal agricultural product and eligible for insurance. The past Farm Bill of 2014 eliminated strict hemp laws and enabled farmers in a number of states to cultivate the crop during research projects.

Conclusion

In summary, the Farm Bill is currently one of the most important laws in the nation. It affects the livelihoods of farmers as well as the amount and quality of food that is supplied for human consumption. The provisions of the bill aim to make it easier for farmers to do their work in addition to legalizing hemp. Therefore, it can be considered one of the most progressive bills to be enacted regarding these issues.

References

American Heart Association. (2019). Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. Web.

Imhoff, D., & Badaracco, C. (2019). The Farm Bill: A Citizen’s Guide. Island Press.

Lichtenberg, E. (2019). Conservation and the environment in US farm legislation. Euro Choices, 18(1), 49-55.

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McClure, J. (2019). What’s in the New Farm Bill? Crops, Soils, Agronomy News, 64(2), 13-15.

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