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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The 2013 Farm Bill: A Comparison of the Senate-Passed (S. 954) and House-Passed (H.R. 2642) Bills with Current Law

Ralph M. Chite, Coordinator
Section Research Manager

Congress periodically establishes agricultural and food policy in an omnibus farm bill. The 113th Congress faces reauthorization of the current five-year farm bill (the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, P.L. 110-246), since many of its provisions expire in 2013. The 2008 farm bill originally expired in 2012, but the 112th Congress did not complete action on a new farm bill and instead extended most authorities and funding for one additional year in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (the fiscal cliff bill, P.L. 112-240). The 2008 farm bill contains titles that cover farm commodity support, horticulture, livestock, conservation, nutrition assistance, international trade and food aid, agricultural research, farm credit, rural development, bioenergy, and forestry.

The Senate Agriculture Committee approved its version of an omnibus 2013 farm bill (S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013) by a vote of 15-5 on May 14, 2013. The next day, the House Agriculture Committee conducted markup of its own version of the farm bill (H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013) and approved the amended bill by a vote of 36-10. Floor action on the Senate bill began during the week of May 20, 2013, and was completed on June 10, 2013, when the full Senate approved the bill by a vote of 66-27. The full House considered H.R. 1947 during the week of June 17 and adopted numerous amendments before defeating the amended bill on June 20 by a vote of 195-234. Three weeks later, the full House debated a variation of the defeated bill that excluded a Nutrition title but included all of the adopted floor amendments to all of the other titles. This revised bill (H.R. 2642) was approved by the House by a 216-208 vote. Conference on the two measures is pending.

Within the various titles of S. 954 and H.R. 2642, as passed by their respective chambers, are provisions that would reshape the structure of farm commodity support, expand crop insurance coverage, consolidate conservation programs and extend authority to appropriate funds for many U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) discretionary programs through FY2018. Both bills would eliminate direct payments to farmers, and revise (and rename) counter-cyclical price and revenue support programs. S. 954 reauthorizes and revises the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), while H.R. 2642 contains no SNAP provisions. H.R. 2642 terminates permanent law that for many years has served as a fallback for the farm commodity support programs if current authorities were allowed to expire, and instead makes the farm commodity support authorities in H.R. 2642 the new permanent law.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that if the mandatory programs of the 2008 farm bill were to continue, they would cost $973 billion over the next 10 years (FY2014- FY2023). If enacted, the Senate-passed farm bill (S. 954) would reduce this baseline by $17.9 billion (-1.8%) over 10 years, of which $13.9 billion is attributed to agricultural programs and $4 billion to nutrition programs. The House-passed bill (H.R. 2642), which does not have a nutrition title, would reduce the agriculture portion of the baseline by $12.9 billion (-6.2%). An earlier House Agriculture committee-reported bill, H.R. 1947, which failed on the House floor in June, would have reduced the nutrition title baseline by $20.5 billion over 10 years, more than the $4 billion nutrition reduction in S. 954.

This report provides a side-by-side comparison of every provision in the House–passed (H.R. 2642) and Senate-passed (S. 954) 2013 farm bills with each other and with current law or policy. The Appendix compares the Nutrition titles of S. 954 and H.R. 1947 as amended and defeated.

Date of Report: July 19, 2013
Number of Pages: 188
Order Number: R43076
Price: $29.95

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