On Tuesday, the Senate approved a farm bill that is projected to save $23 billion over the next ten years by reauthorizing hundreds of programs for agriculture, nutrition, dairy production, conservation, and international food aid.
The plan proposes a spending scheme of $16.6 billion less than current levels. In total, it calls for spending $956.4 billion over the course of the next decade.
In addition to the changes the bill will play in the lives of thousands of American citizens, it also notably marks collaboration between parties. As Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat said, “This really was an effort in good faith between the House and the Senate and Republicans and Democrats.”
Obama has endorsed the bill in a statement, noting that, while not perfect, it “improved farm and nutrition policy through compromise.”
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Amongst the biggest changes proposed by the bill are cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or, as it is more commonly known, food stamps. Over the next ten years, the food stamp program is projected to be reduced by more than $8 billion.
This means that about 1.7 million people will have their benefits reduced by approximately $90 a month. As proponents of the bill explained, the new bill has “closed a loophole exploited by 16 states that helped food stamp recipients get more in benefits than they should have.”
While the bill also adds $205 million to food banks, opponents of the bill have criticized the bill as creating “devastating” effects, in that it will increase the amount of people who will be in need of food.
Another notable change is that farmers will no longer be paid directly. In past years, direct payments have been paid to farmers regardless of whether they grew crops; these payments have totaled about $5 billion a year.
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Some of the money saved by elimination direct payments will be added to the crop insurance program, which is set to be expanded by $7 billion.
Prominent critiques of the crop insurance program, which dates back to the Dust Bowl years, have spoken out against the program’s development over past years, noting that it “had morphed from a safeguard against natural disaster into income support for farmers.”
Proponents of the bill have addressed these concerns, stating that the program should provide “a better safety net for farmers”, while also ensuring that farmers “get help only in cases when they need it, such as a natural disaster.”
Sources: NY Times, www.bloomberg.com
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