The Agriculture Act of 2014 was signed into law in February of this year after a long congressional battle to approve the bill. The act makes changes in two main categories – food stamp reform and farm policy reform but also includes a few additional regulations. The bill makes several major changes to farm policy including the creation of a price support system for dairy farmers, the termination of direct payment subsidies, and new income caps on farm subsidies. In addition, the bill reframes the previous emphasis on staple crops such as corn and potatoes and instead offers support systems to the market for specialty crops including fruits, vegetables, and nursery items.
Much of the controversy around the newest farm bill, however, surrounds the shifts in policy regarding SNAP, or food stamps. The bill made over $8 billion in cuts to SNAP, which while far less than the $40 million originally proposed by Republicans, still did significant damage to the program. Over 850,000 American households lost $90 per month in benefits. In addition, some people, such as college students and those convicted of certain crimes will be excluded from the program entirely.
Despite the President’s claims about the bill as an act of conservation, a relatively small portion of the funding for the Agriculture Act goes to environmental legislation. It does, however, clarify issues that arose under the Clean Water Act that regard pollution from service roads in forest industries.
The Agriculture Act of 2014 is a hodgepodge of policies and reforms, affecting a wide range of issues connected to our agricultural system. President Obama described the bill as a Swiss-army knife, with an aspect of legislation for every issue. Within this multitude of changes both positive and negative outcomes arise and it is our job to navigate these shifts in policy and learn from them in order to grow our agricultural policy in more profound and informed ways with the next farm bill.