Natural Times, April/May/June 2014
By Paul Rutkovsky
The Agricultural Act of 2014 (H.R. 2642, also known as the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill) was signed by the president on February 7, 2014. The previous farm bill, Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, expired in 2012. The bill passed with bipartisan support, but the agriculture lobby got its way with subsidies for big agribusiness. Decades of agriculture policies that promoted industrial agriculture created powerful industries that refused to compromise. It’s a complex new law, and all the intricate additions inserted by special interests will be a mystery to the general public unless there’s a thorough investigation of the entire bill. The media’s and public’s short attention spans will probably not encourage a more detailed examination, in spite of how important this bill is to our physical and psychological health.
The most controversial provision is an $8 billion reduction over 10 years in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps.
There is a modicum of “good news” for advocates of healthy whole foods: an increase in funding for organic farm programs. In the United States the demand for organic food products far exceeds supply. Although the bill provides more support to help domestic farmers transition to organic farming to meet this growing demand, the total amount is relatively small when compared to the subsidies for big agribusiness. Hopefully, when the next farm bill comes up for discussion in five years, small organic farmers will be given a level playing ground, in other words, fairness in the marketplace. The new bill provides disproportionate subsidies for factory farming agribusiness.
More good news: The meat and poultry lobby had tried to cripple the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirement for meat, but the requirements remain intact. This simply means, if the meat in your grocery store is from China, it will be labeled from China.
The “King Amendment” was defeated, which would have negated state and local laws regarding the production or manufacture of agriculture products. “The dangerous King Amendment could have nullified hundreds of state laws on animal welfare, food safety, and other important issues,” said Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
The bill also eased a 75-year-old restriction on growing and researching industrial hemp. Now several states can begin pilot growing programs for this variety of the cannabis plant, which can be refined into oil, wax, rope, cloth, pulp and other products.
A major shift in the new law eliminates payments to farmers for not growing crops, and expands a program for crop insurance. For example, there are new subsidies for rice and peanut growers that kick in when prices drop. Also, fruit and vegetable farmers, who have been largely shut out of the crop insurance programs that have been accessible to grain and other farmers for decades, now have far greater access. Other programs for those crops were increased by 55 percent from the 2008 bill, which expired last year. Likewise block grants for their marketing programs grew exponentially.
Please understand that this is a mini-article about an extremely important bill that will impact our lives substantially for the next five years. Consider continuing your education on H.R. 2062 with the following resources.
Information for this article came from the following sources.