The U.S. Farm Bill is a comprehensive piece of authorizing legislation that governs an array of federal agricultural and food programs. The Farm Bill covers most federal government policies related to agriculture in the United States and is typically renewed every five to seven years. Once passed, the Farm Bill moves into appropriations (a process that determines how much money each Farm Bill program receives). This happens every year until a new Farm Bill is written.
The provisions of the Farm Bill are divided into what are called “Titles” – overarching categories related to food and farming. The 2014 Farm Bill has 12 titles: commodities; conservation; trade; nutrition; credit; United States rural development; research; forestry; energy; horticulture; crop insurance; and miscellaneous. New titles can be added during the reauthorization process that happens every five to seven years.
Farm Bill programs are generally administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). State and local agencies help implement and manage certain conservation, nutrition, and rural development programs. Public-private partnerships are also authorized in research and crop insurance programs. For example, crop insurance policies are sold by private insurance companies, but they are subsidized by taxpayers and overseen by the USDA.
What is the History of the Farm Bill?
The first Farm Bill – the Agricultural Adjust Act of 1933 (each Farm Bill has its own name, the current version is the Agricultural Act of 2014) – was created to address low commodity prices, national hunger, soil erosion and a lack of credit. Legislation was passed sporadically until Farm Bills were passed in more regular intervals beginning in 1965. Unfortunately, many of the original programs that were designed to ensure that there was healthy food for all and fair prices for farmers, have been stripped away or replaced with programs that benefit corporate interests over the interests of farmers and eaters.
The 2008 documentary Food Fight provides a substantial look at the evolution of American agricultural policy and food culture over the course of the 20th century.
Photo credit: USDA Website, http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=farmbill