The U.S. Senate yesterday passed a new farm bill that cuts direct subsidies to farmers yet significantly increases the nation’s crop insurance program. The legislation, which passed by a vote of 64 to 35, would cut about $23.6 billion from current federal spending through the elimination of crop subsidies to U.S.
READ THE e360 REPORTfarmers, cuts in conservation funding, and reductions in food stamp spending for the nation’s poor. Overall, the package would cost about $1 trillion over the next decade. The legislation would end a two-decade program that pays $5 billion to U.S. farmers and investors annually, whether they raise crops or not. It would instead make the $5-billion crop insurance program the principle safety net for U.S. farmers when crop prices decline, although for the first time it would impose a cap on the insurance and recipients would be required to follow soil and water conservation mandates. While Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook said the legislation adds critical reforms to crop insurance program, he said the bill “needlessly cuts vital nutrition and conservation funding, threatening a decade of environmental progress.” Analysts say the legislation is unlikely to pass the U.S. House of Representatives without significant revisions.
For decades, farm bills have supported large-scale agriculture. But with the 2012 bill now up for debate, Jim Robbins writes, advocates say seismic shifts in the way the nation views food production may lead to new policies that tilt more toward local, sustainable agriculture.
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