June 16, 2008

The Last Farm Bill Roundup

Now that it's Law, What Does it Mean?

Today I finally sat down to sift through the hundreds of pages written about the Farm Bill to come up with the things that will affect people the most this time around. Consider this a final fact sheet of sorts, and let's all feel blessed that a Farm Bill only comes around every five years. Let me know if there's anything missing:

Good things the Farm Bill includes:

  • 10.361 billion dollar investment in nutrition programs ranging from increased public entitlements to nutritious school lunches
  • A new formula to assess how much money a person is given through Food Stamps so that the amount is able to keep up with inflation (no exact number since it hasn’t been implemented yet)
  • An increase in Food Stamp Benefits, which hadn’t been revised since 1977
  • 1.26 billion dollars for The Emergency Food Assistance Program
  • Food Stamps will finally allow persons to deduct the full cost of child care (including day care programs) from their eligibility income, eliminating a deduction cap of $3,000 previously used
  • Creates the Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development Center, with $3 million going toward bringing fresh foods to food deserts.
  • 1 billion increase in funding to provide healthy snacks for after school programs through the USDA Snack Program
  • $50 million to address immediate food pantry shortages

Bad things the Farm Bill includes:

  • Stationary subsidies for farmer for a narrow range of crops despite the market price for those crops (aka, no matter if the crop is doing poorly in the market or very well, the subsidy remains the same)
  • Most of the subsidies given only benefit corporate farms, not individual farmers
  • The cap to qualify for subsidies is still too high (you can make up to $1.2 million per year and still qualify ($500,000 from your farm, and $750,000 off your farm

Indifferent or Hard to Assess things the Farm Bill includes:

  • The Food Stamps program has a new name—it will now be called the Supplemental Food and Nutrition Program
  • No longer counts retirement funds, combat pay, or IRAs toward income requirements for Supplemental Food and Nutrition Benefits (Food Stamps)
  • Ends paper stamp use—all participants will have to use EBT swipe cards

Additional Resources:
General Fact Sheet from the House of Representatives
Facts on Things that are Bad
USDA Coverage of the Farm Bill
FRAC's Farm Bill News Coverage


Joni said...

This is a really helpful summary. Thanks, Matt!

Matt Siemer said...

Hey Joni,

Thanks for reading it, although something tells me you already knew most of the Farm Bill stuff.

Is there anything you wanted to see changed in the Farm Bill this year that didn't happen?


Kevin said...

I would say that Matt always has been a good summarizer. I'm in my campaign office still working. It's 11:21 pm here in St. Louis. I got distracted by the sudden thought of checking out your blog, Matt. Very nice. If our local farmers keep getting the shaft the level of quality of food in our grocers will only continue to decline, as will the quality of the products coming out of these multi-million dollar farms...Are we not then also risking our own health by giving so many subsidies to these larger farms? Farms that bulk up the breast of a chicken with hormone shots. Farms that have already lowered their standards to meet the bottom line, and mass produce. This truly is a health issue. We need people in Washington up to the task of being help accountable for the votes they cast and the work on these bills they put in...

Your friend,
-Kevin Caravelli

Matt Siemer said...

Hey Mr. Kevin,

I appreciate you reading my post, but please don't work so late. This morning I heard that if the floods in Iowa get worse we're going to lose up to 20% of our national corn crop. That's a truly scary situation.

Good point with the health risks. Is there anything you would have liked to see changed in the Farm Bill? I hope your St. Louis office isn't under water,


Kevin said...

Yes, I would be more than happy to make some changes to the Farm Bill. You think they will let me, Matt? While the Farm Bill is a wonderful vehicle for us Democrats, it's improperly used. It's such a powerful tool.

I think the name should stay, but I think the contents should be updated. I would enter into that bill, things that encourage green sustainability(on our farms and in our manufacturing industry), I would also add an incentive portion in there geared towards large farms (this will take a longer explanation and plan than I have time for)to help create a sense of urgency to stop inhumane practices on animals and those of us who eat their chemically induced products.

I would attach a plan that would buy a certain amount (let's say $20,000 worth just to have a number in here) of Small Organic Farm products before they even grow or harvest them to create a bottom line for these smaller farms. Those government bought products would then go to groups like Bread For The City, St. Louis Area Food Bank. , etc...The "already bought" government products would only be the "over-produced" crops/products from each farm. so they can still inject money into our "free-market" economy by selling their products to everyday consumers like ourselves. Their are many reasons for this; to control waste, to strengthen each individual farm through growth possibilities(lessening the stress of not being able to sell)... anyways just some thoughts...good or bad blogging is super sweet.

Matt Siemer said...

Those are some good thoughts, especially the ones about local pantries getting some much needed help (whoops! I'm biased!).

Green sustainability is interesting to me, but I'd like to know more about the actual technologies available to farmers. Of course every right-minded farmer right now is grumbling at ethanol standards, so I can't see them buying in to tractors and combines that don't run on diesel. What are their green options at present, and how do we create more of them? Would you want to put research money in the Farm Bill, too?

Many thanks,


Kevin said...

Well, when I think farms and green, I think money, and making money. Wind turbines not only create energy, but money too "green" money! The surplus of energy these wind turbines actually make money from the monopolistic electric companies like (St. Louis' own Ameren UE)...Just one thought. Wind Turbine Farm (ya know the ones). Hey have a great day BFC! I'll hit you up later. Was that more of what you were thinking, Matt? Those are the things I was thinking more along the lines of for the Farm Bill update.

Matt Siemer said...

Good stuff. How's your corn crop?


Kevin said...

Man, totally under water! Maybe once all this river water dries up, instead of re-planting my crop, I'll plant wind turbines, and grow money, and energy.

Your friend,

Kevin Caravelli