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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The 2012 Farm Bill: A Comparison of Senate- Passed S. 3240 and the House Agriculture Committee’s H.R. 6083 with Current Law

Ralph M. Chite, Coordinator
Section Research Manager

Congress periodically establishes agricultural and food policy in an omnibus farm bill. The 112th Congress faces reauthorization of the current five-year farm bill (the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, P.L. 110-246) because many of its provisions expire in 2012. The 2008 farm bill contained 15 titles covering farm commodity support, horticulture, livestock, conservation, nutrition assistance, international trade and food aid, agricultural research, farm credit, rural development, bioenergy, and forestry, among others.

The Senate approved its version of the 2012 omnibus farm bill (S. 3240, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012) by a vote of 64-35 on June 21, 2012. Subsequently, the House Agriculture Committee conducted markup of its own version of the farm bill (H.R. 6083, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012) on July 11, 2012, and approved the amended bill by a vote of 35-11. Floor action on the House farm bill is pending.

Within the 12 titles of S. 3240 and H.R. 6083, both farm bills would reshape the structure of farm commodity support, expand crop insurance coverage, consolidate conservation programs, revise the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), and extend authority to appropriate funds for many U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) discretionary programs through FY2017. Among the major differences in the two farm bills is how each would restructure the farm safety net. Both farm bills borrow conceptually from current programs, by revising (and renaming) them to enhance price or revenue protection for producers. The House farm bill is similar to the current mix of farm programs in that it retains producer choice between a counter-cyclical price program and a revenue enhancement program, while the Senate farm bill provides for a revised revenue program with a slightly higher guarantee than in the House farm bill.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that the programs of the 2008 farm bill, if they were to continue, would cost nearly $1 trillion over the next 10 years. Compared to this “baseline,” the Senate-passed farm bill would reduce spending by $23.1 billion and the House Agriculture Committee-approved farm bill would reduce it by $35.1 billion, both over the same 10-year horizon. Explaining much of the $12 billion difference in estimated savings between the two farm bills are provisions in the nutrition title of the House bill that would affect program eligibility for SNAP.

This report contains a more detailed summary of the major similarities and differences between the House and Senate 2012 farm bills and also provides a side-by-side comparison of every provision in the two farm bills and how these provisions relate to current federal law or policy. 

As of the date of publication of this report, the House Agriculture Committee had not yet officially reported the text of H.R. 6083, as amended and approved by the committee at its July 11, 2012, markup. Hence, section numbers of the yet-to-be-reported bill are unavailable for portions of titles (IV, V, VI, X, and XII) that were amended without any reference to the amendment’s exact placement in the bill. This report reflects provisions of all of the adopted amendments (as posted on the House Agriculture Committee website) and will be updated with the appropriate section number references once the bill is reported

Date of Report: August 21, 2012
Number of Pages: 134
Order Number: R42552
Price: $29.95

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