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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The 2013 Farm Bill: A Comparison of the Senate-Passes (S. 954) and House- Passed (H.R. 2642, H.R. 3102) Bills with Current Law

Ralph M. Chite
Coordinator Section Research Manager

Congress periodically establishes agricultural and food policy in an omnibus farm bill. The 113
th 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 and instead extended the law for one year (P.L. 112-240). The 2008 farm bill covers farm commodity support, horticulture, livestock, conservation, nutrition assistance, trade and international 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 marked up its version of the farm bill (H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013) with a vote of 36-10. The Senate adopted S. 954 by a vote of 66-27 on June 10. The House considered H.R. 1947 and adopted numerous amendments, but defeated the bill on June 20 by a vote of 195-234. On July 11, the House passed a variation of the defeated bill that excluded a nutrition title but included other adopted floor amendments (H.R. 2642) by a vote of 216-208. On September 19, the House passed a stand-alone nutrition bill (H.R. 3102, the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013) by a vote of 217-210. The House subsequently adopted a resolution (H.Res. 361) that combined the texts of H.R. 2642 and H.R. 3102 into one bill (H.R. 2642) for purposes of resolving differences with the Senate.

Within these bills are provisions that would reshape the structure of farm commodity support, expand crop insurance coverage, consolidate conservation programs, reauthorize and revise nutrition assistance, and extend authority to appropriate funds for many U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs through FY2018.

Both the House and Senate bills would eliminate direct payments to farmers, and revise (and rename) counter-cyclical price and revenue support programs. The House bill would repeal a permanent law that has served as a fallback for the farm commodity support programs if current authorities were allowed to expire, and instead makes the farm commodity programs in H.R. 2642 the new permanent law. Both bills reauthorize various disaster assistance programs.

Both the House and Senate would reauthorize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), though the Senate’s reauthorization is for five years and the House’s is for three years. Both bills restrict how a household’s receipt of Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) benefits can affect SNAP benefits. The House bill also would restrict categorical eligibility, repeal state performance bonuses, expand drug testing for SNAP applicants, and change several time limit and work requirements.

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. The House-passed combination of H.R. 2642 and H.R. 3102 together would reduce spending by $51.9 billion (−5.3%) over 10 years. For nutrition programs, the Senate bill’s reduction is $3.9 billion (−0.5%); the House bill’s reduction is $39.0 billion (−5.1%) over 10 years. For the agriculture-related (non-nutrition) portion of the bill, the Senate bill’s reduction is $13.9 billion (−6.7%); the House bill’s reduction is $12.9 billion (−6.2%). 

Date of Report: October 18, 2013
Number of Pages: 178
Order Number: R43076
Price: $29.95

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