These two facts conflict with each other! Why? Because the Farm Bill directly influences how billions of government dollars are allocated —and that includes the programs that can help farmers launch or scale their farms.
In other words: the Farm Bill will affect your business more than you think! And the next month is a critical period.
Survey respondents also rated their Farm Bill knowledge at an average of 14—out of a hundred. Ouch. To help you get up to speed, here’s a quick primer on the Farm Bill, its contents, how it’s created, and how you can impact the outcome.
The Farm Bill is the biggest collection of food and ag-related policy for the U.S.
The Farm Bill affects most farmers and their businesses.
The Farm Bill is the most powerful collection of food, nutrition and agricultural policy, intertwined with all kinds of farms, how they function, and the economics surrounding them. It’s separated into sections (“titles”) that cover the policy around a certain topic, from conservation and energy, to nutrition programs, to rural development, to crop insurance, to beginning farmers. Every farmer has a vested interest in at least one of these topics!
You can read short explanations of each title here.
If you’ve been listening to news or skimming headlines in the last few months, you’ve seen discussions of the upcoming version of the Farm Bill. The reason that so many people are involved in the Bill is that it decides how a lot of money is directed. For example, the last Farm Bill cost an estimated 95 billion dollars a year. Roughly 75% of that went towards nutrition programs (mostly SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
In most cases, the Farm Bill has a defined 5-year lifecycle with distinct decision making points. It starts when two different versions of the Bill are drafted—one by the House Agriculture committee, and one by the Senate Agriculture committee. Once the drafts have been passed in the House and the Senate, a new “conference committee” is formed to work out the differences. It includes the Chairs of the House and Senate Agriculture committees as well as a mix of other Senators and Representatives. (This is the current stage of the Farm Bill. Meet the Conference Committee members from the Senate and the House.)
The Conference Committee members will reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill into a single piece of legislation. That legislation goes back to be debated and voted on in both the House and the Senate. If it doesn’t pass, the debate goes back to the Ag Committees. When it does pass Congress, it is sent to the President and becomes law if it is signed. On rare occasions, the President has vetoed Farm Bills in the past. Congress can then vote to override a veto with a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber.
A process designed for input
When the Farm Bill was first created under President Roosevelt in the wake of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, it had three original goals: fair food prices, adequate food supply, and protection of America’s natural resources. It is the duty of the Agriculture Committees to protect these goals.