Remember the so-called Monsanto Protection Act? Here is a little more light-hearted analysis of the legislative process that got it passed.
This popping up in my newsfeed is quite timely, though, since the US Congress is set to finally debate the Farm Bill that had failed to pass last year. The Agricultural Committees of both the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed their own versions of the Bill, which will be debated on the full floor starting on May 20th (for the Senate) and come June (for the House). What do the proposed bills look like so far?
Let’s look at the House bill, and highlight some of the changes the Republican-controlled Agricultural Committee has proposed so far on Thursday, and their equivalent in the Senate:
- A $940-billion bill over 10 years (similar in the Senate: $955 billion)
- Ending the direct payment scheme (which up to now accounted for up to $5 billion/year) and thereby cutting traditional subsidies by $22 billion, while expanding crop insurance programs (which are legal under WTO rules) by $9 billion over 10 years. Cotton and peanut growers would get additional revenue insurance programs (similar in the Senate, although crop insurance would only increase by $5 billion).
- They also propose to make the biggest cut in food stamp distribution in a generation, cutting $20.5 billion over 10 years. This would make eligibility more strict, and would require closer cost accounting. Under this proposal, around 2 million Americans (or 4% of current recipients) would no longer be eligible to receive nutrition assistance (this is the one issue where opinions are miles apart – the Senate bill only cuts food stamp spending by $4 billion, five times less.)
- The Conservation Reserve program, which pays farmers to idle their land and let it rest, would be decreased from currently 27 million acres to 24 million (in the Senate bill, it would be 25 million acres).
So far some of the proposals. Interestingly, the article that I drew my information from highlights that “an urban-rural partnership traditionally carries farm bills to passage – city lawmakers back generous farm subsidies in exchange for well-funded nutrition programs – but threatens to shatter this time around.” The unanimity on the amount of allocations to the food stamp program was a large reason the Bill failed last time around, and this is set to be the most discussed and divisive issue in this session. So it will be interesting to see how vigorous the debate over these issues will be on the floor of both House and Senate. I hope representatives not inherently interested in agriculture will be attentive to protect consumers’ rights and societal benefits (e.g. in terms of the environment), and prove their track record illustrated by the above video wrong.
Bonus: If you are interested in an in-depth analysis of the Farm Bill and its significance, this site seems to have a lot of interesting resources, though I haven’t had the time to delve into it myself.