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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What Is the Farm Bill?

Renée Johnson
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Jim Monke
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

The farm bill is an omnibus, multi-year piece of authorizing legislation that governs an array of agricultural and food programs. Although agricultural policies sometimes are created and changed by freestanding legislation or as part of other major laws, the farm bill provides a predictable opportunity for policymakers to comprehensively and periodically address agricultural and food issues. The farm bill is renewed about every five years.

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246, “2008 farm bill”) is the most recent omnibus farm bill, and was enacted into law in June 2008. The farm bill is due for reauthorization, as portions of the 2008 farm bill expired beginning September 30, 2012. Some programs expire at the end of a farm bill and would cease to operate altogether unless reauthorized; in other cases new activities might not be initiated—either for lack of program authority or available funding.

The 112th Congress has considered several options to address reauthorization of the farm bill. The Senate approved its version of a farm bill (S. 3240) in June 2012. A House farm bill (H.R. 6083) was approved by the House Agriculture Committee in July 2012 and awaits consideration by the full House of Representatives. Congress also considered various options for extending the current farm bill, among other options.

The most recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) “baseline” budget (Mach 2012) estimates that about $993 billion of mandatory outlays are available for farm bill programs over the next decade (FY2013-FY2022). Within this total, an estimated $772 billion (78%) would be available for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) as part of the bill’s nutrition title. Another $154 billion (16%) would be available for farm commodity support and crop insurance, and $64 billion (6%) for agricultural conservation.

Date of Report: October 3, 2012
Number of Pages: 10
Order Number: RS22131
Price: $29.95

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