Give Now

Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Senate Farm Bill: Crop Insurance In, Subsidies Out

Hot on the heels of the House, the Senate Agriculture Committee has passed a farm bill that promises to save over $23 billion dollars over ten years.

A red tractor parked on a field of dirt that hasn't been planted.  Ominous grey clouds in the background.

Photo: Andrew Stawarz (Flickr)

The Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 bill replaces the payment of direct subsidies to farmers with a new form of crop insurance.

The Senate Agriculture Committee passed a five-year, half-trillion dollar farm bill on Thursday.

The Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 promises to reduce the federal deficit by $23 billion dollars by eliminating subsidies, consolidating programs and improving SNAP (food stamp) accountability. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office have projected that the budget could save $24.7 billion over the next decade.

The Senate committee’s bill follows almost exactly a week after the passage of a different bill in the House.

End To Direct Payments

The Senate’s bill eliminates the payment of direct subsidies to farmers regardless of crop prices.

These subsidies cost $5 billion annually and are increasingly viewed as unnecessary. Net farm income reached an all-time high of $98.1 billion in 2011 and is projected to reach $91.7 billion — its second-highest level — in 2012.

An insurance-like system, designed to supplement the federal crop insurance program, will replace the subsidies.

While the existent federal program will continue to cover severe losses, the new system will compensate grain and soybean farmers up to $50,000 if crop revenue falls 11 to 21 percent below the five-year average. Cotton farmers will be covered under a similar plan.

Bipartisan Support And Opposition

Support and opposition to the Senate bill have come from widespread political and geographical sources. Senate committee chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and ranking Senate Republican Pat Roberts (R-KS) have both voiced confidence in the bill.

Republicans and Democrats from heartland and mountain states have largely expressed support for the bill.

Southern Republicans and New York Democrats, however, are registering vocal opposition.

Southern lawmakers say that the new bill fails to provide enough protection for southern crops like peanuts and rice, which have higher input costs, greater restrictions on crop insurance and tend to be grown in volatile weather regions.

Sen. Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY) objected to cuts in food assistance and a new dairy support program.

Meanwhile, Back At The House…

Frank Lucas (R-OK), chair of the House Agriculture Committee, issued a statement criticizing the Senate bill, saying that it “fails to provide producers a viable safety net and instead locks in profit for a couple of commodities.”

The House would like to see far greater cuts: closer to $180 billion.

Despite the bipartisan support achieved in the Senate committee, lawmakers are increasingly skeptical that a final farm bill will pass the legislature before the current one expires on September 30.

In this event, the current farm bill will likely be extended until the new one is passed.

Read More:

  • Senate Farm Bill Approves Spending Cuts 60 Years In The Making (Bloomberg)
  • Senate Panel Votes New Start For U.S. Farm Subsidies (Reuters)
  • Senate Panel OKs Farm Bill That Would Cut Subsidies (Des Moines Register)
Sarah Gordon

Sarah Gordon has been interested in food ethics since she was 15, learned about industrial slaughter, and launched into 10 years of vegetarianism. These days, she strives to be a conscientious omnivore. Now a PhD candidate in folklore, her research has caused her to spend a lot of time in the remote Canadian sub-arctic, where the lake trout (sustainably harvested) tastes amazing.

View all posts by this author »

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Earth Eats:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Earth Eats

Search Earth Eats

Earth Eats on Twitter

Earth Eats on Flickr

Harvest Public Media