Bipartisan Agreement Reached on New Farm Bill; Vote Still to Come
By Heidi Parsons
U.S. lawmakers from both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees announced yesterday evening that they have reached a bipartisan agreement on a new five-year farm bill, officially known as the Agricultural Act of 2014. Final votes are expected in both the House of Representatives and the Senate later this week.
Summarizing the bill's changes to previous policies and funding, a New York Times article said the bill "will eliminate or consolidate dozens of agriculture subsidy programs, expand government-subsidized crop insurance and cut about $8 billion from the food stamp program over the next decade." A National Public Radio blog observed that the bill "reflects the many agendas that helped to complicate its creation," and a Politico blog listed industry subgroups considered to be "winners and losers" based on whether or not the new bill favors their individual agendas.
One group that is pleased with the Conference Committee's version of the bill is the United Fresh Produce Association. Tom Stenzel, United Fresh president and CEO, said, “The 2014 Farm Bill contains provisions that are the most significant government investment ever in the competitiveness of the fruit and vegetable industry.”
A United Fresh statement said that the farm bill conference report includes an overall increase in investment of 55 percent over 2008 Farm Bill funding levels in critical produce industry initiatives and programs. Those initiatives include the State Block Grant Program, Specialty Crops Research Initiative, a new fruit and vegetable incentive grant program for SNAP recipients, the pest and disease prevention program along with maintaining funding in the Market Access Program and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. In particular, increased funding for pest and disease prevention would likely improve produce safety.