It's been a long time coming.
President Barack Obama signed into law today the Agricultural Act of 2014, otherwise known as the farm bill. During a visit to Michigan State University today, and before signing the bill, Obama lauded the legislation as a rare example of Congressional bipartisanship. He added that it would not only help the people who grow our nation's food, but it would also help ensure that Americans who depend on food assistance don't go hungry.
"The amazing reality about farm bills is that they reflect the times in which we live," said Rep. Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. "They are reviewed, written, debated, and reauthorized nearly every five years. Today our concerns are rightly placed on reducing the size and cost of the federal government. With the president signing the Agricultural Act of 2014 into law, we mark a new era of farm and food policy that values saving money, reforming or repealing government programs, and yet still providing an effective safety net for the production of our national food supply and for those Americans who are struggling."
"This is not your father’s farm bill," said Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, who was on hand for the signing ceremony. "This bill represents a new direction for American agriculture policy, reforming agriculture programs to reduce spending by $23 billion. The bill makes historic investments in land and water conservation, increases options for local and healthy foods, and protects food assistance for families who need help. This bill touches every American in every part of the country – from the food we eat, to the water we drink and the air we breathe."
In a nutshell, the new farm bill:
- Eliminates direct payments while strengthening and expanding crop insurance options.
- Puts into place a permanent livestock disaster assistance fund.
- Reforms dairy policy by repealing outdated programs and creating a new voluntary margin protection program, without imposing government-mandated supply controls.
- Consolidates conservation programs and focuses those efforts on working lands.
- Continues funding for agricultural research and creates support for beginning farmers.
- Reforms the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by addressing fraud and misuse.
"This new five-year farm bill means certainty and stability for farmers. It means food on the table for hungry families. And it means taxpayers will save money," said National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre. "Because of its very topic – food and the farms that provide it – this is one of the most important pieces of legislation Congress has passed in some time."