The House Farm Bill... Good, Bad & Ugly

On July 11, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Farm Bill that was, unfortunately, missing the nutrition title, which provides authority for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) and other nutrition programs for low-income families.

Historically, an amendment introduced in the earlier Farm Bill debate by Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) to place meaningful limits on how much one farm operation can receive in federal farm program payments was retained. Rep. Fortenberry’s determined championing of farm program reform is laudable and a bright spot in what otherwise was a discouraging debate over farm, food and rural policy.

Sadly, the House Farm Bill fails to hold crop insurance premium subsidies to the same standard as farm program payments, continuing to allow the nation’s largest farms and wealthiest farmers to continue to receive crop insurance premium subsidies every year on every acre regardless of price, production or profitability, with no limits whatsoever.

Moreover, the House Farm Bill fails to tie crop insurance to conservation compliance or to prevent the breaking of native grassland for crop production. It also fails to adequately invest in conservation and rural development, small business development in particular.

Arguably, the ugliest facet of this Farm Bill process was the turn toward partisan rancor. In the end, every House Democrat voted against the bill and all but twelve Republicans voted in favor. The Farm Bill should reflect rural America’s priorities and not get bogged down in petty partisan politics.