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Farm Bill Appropriations: Every Year, Not Every 5!

March 11, 2011
by Kasi Boyd

Note: If you’re new to the Farm Bill, also see Farm Bill Jargon 101.

The Farm Bill is renewed every 5 to 7 years, but the bill is scrutinized every year.

The Ag Appropriations Committee is tasked with keeping the Farm Bill programs on budget on a yearly basis, making them the final decision-makers on which programs are funded.

Which programs are affected?

  • Conservation
  • Beginning Farmer
  • Organic
  • Research

Many confusing bills that receive Mandatory funding, like crop insurance and counter-cyclical payments, end up costing more than expected. As a result, cuts are made to conservation and sustainable ag titles, which have Discretionary funding status.

Often times, this happens because Big Ag benefits from direct payment programs and they can afford lobbyists in Washington DC to support these changes in their favor.

Mandatory spending status does not make a program safe – the Appropriations Committee has the power to change the amount of money given to those programs, too. The meat of the bill (commodity subsidies and food stamp programs) receives mandatory funding, which are not necessarily looked at every year.

Tracking the money flow in a bill as massive as the Farm Bill means tracking all the decisions of the Ag Appropriations Committee. Each year the 15 titles and their provisions are discussed and funded, or not.

My point:

Reauthorization of the Farm Bill is a big deal and we need to get involved and make sure the bill contains the programs we want every 5 to 7 years.  But, it is not over when the Farm Bill passes. In fact, it has only just begun. Every year, the appropriations process creates mini-bills, allowing funding for every program to change for better or worse.

To demystify the Farm Bill and discover where exactly the funds have gone since 2008, I will go through all the committee’s notes from the past few years and piece together a history.

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