Understanding and Researching the U.S. Farm Bill - Purdue e-Pubs

Bert Chapman
Govt. Information, Political Science, & Economics
Librarian/Professor of Library Science
Purdue University Libraries-2010 USAIN
Conference-May 11, 2010
Occurs approximately every five years.
Sets out federal government financial support
for farmers, federal price supports, and
agricultural commodities.
Public Law 110-246 (Food, Conservation, and
Energy Act of 2008 (663 pages long)
Initial 2008 version vetoed by President
George W. Bush, but overridden by Congress
Various agricultural commodities including
cotton, dairy, fruit & vegetables, feed grains,
peanuts, rice, soybeans, sugar, and wheat.
Legislation also covers agricultural policy in
areas such as commodity price supports, crop
insurance, land & water resource stewardship,
food assistance, rural energy efficiency, rural
economic assistance etc.
Presidential administration (especially USDA and Office of
Management & Budget (OMB) present preliminary proposals
involving congressional agricultural committees including:
House Agriculture Committee (Current chair Rep. Colin Peterson
(D-MN) and ranking member Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK)
Senate Agriculture Committee (Current chair Sen. Blanche Lincoln
(D-AR) and ranking member Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
House Appropriations Committee Agriculture Subcommittee
(Current chair Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and ranking member
Jack Kingston (R-GA)
Senate Appropriations Committee Agriculture Subcommittee
(Current Chair Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) and ranking member Sen.
Sam Brownback (R-KS). (These last two committees
subcommittees are responsible for “cutting the checks” to fund
these programs.
House Agriculture Committee (45 members
111th Congress-2009/2010)
Senate Agriculture Committee (21 members
111th Congress-2009/2010)
These committees, working with the
administration, will introduce legislation and
conduct hearings in Washington, DC and
various locales in the U.S.
Witnesses will be invited to testify in favor or opposition to
various provisions of the legislation and to existing
agricultural policy programs.
Witnesses testifying will represent farmers organizations,
agribusiness organizations, environmental and energy
groups, agrifinancial groups, average farmers and ranchers,
and producers of agricultural commodities who express their
views on strengths and weaknesses of existing agricultural
policy and improvements they desire.
Regional differences may affect agricultural policymaking. For
instance, Wisconsin and New England politicians and dairy
producers disputed over the Northeast Dairy compact which
expired in 2001.
Committees will conduct hearings “marking up”
this legislation. Further negotiations occur
between committee members, witnesses, and
committee staff writing the legislation. (Hearing
transcripts on this from 2005-2008 exceed
8,144 pages!) Members and interest groups may
insert “earmarks” for favorite programs.
Costs estimates will be incorporated including
Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scoring. CBO
estimates this legislation’s cost as being $286
BILLION between 2008-2012. History
demonstrates such estimates tend to be LOW!
This legislation is introduced in
House and Senate. These
chambers Agriculture Committees
eventually approve bills and file
legislative reports which must
have consistent language, funding
levels, criminal penalties etc. for
full House and Senate to approve.
If legislation is not approved,
House and Senate leadership
appoint “conference committees”
to try and resolve these
differences. If so, a conference
report is issued which becomes
the official legislative history.
If House and Senate differences are resolved,
both House and Senate must approve this
legislation which will then be sent to the
President for signature or veto. Consult
Congressional Record for transcripts of this
2008 legislation was vetoed by President Bush,
but was overridden by 2/3 vote in both
congressional houses and became law.
Agencies propose and receive public comment on
regulations to implement this law’s provisions
which can be commented on and revised in the
regulations.gov/ portal.
Federal farm legislation is a highly complex, expensive,
and controversial process. Represents an excellent
example of how watching legislation being enacted is like
watching sausage being made-it’s not pretty!
Criticized by U.S. critics representing a variety of
ideological perspectives. Conservatives criticize its use of
earmarking and high financial costs and loss of individual
farmers freedoms. Liberals criticize its tendency to favor
large farmers and agricultural producers who don’t need
agricultural subsidies to sustain their operations.
Criticized by foreign critics due to the high subsidies it
provides U.S. farmers and commodity producers which
makes it difficult or impossible for foreign countries to
export their agricultural produce into the U.S.
Preliminary planning for next farm bill (2013?) may already
be underway.
USDA 2008 Farm Bill www.usda.gov/farmbill/
USDA Economic Research Service www.ers.usda.gov/
House Agriculture Committee www.agriculture.house.gov/
House Appropriations Committee http://appropriations.house.gov/
Senate Agriculture Committee www.agriculture.senate.gov/
Senate Appropriations Committee http://appropriations.senate.gov/
Government Accountability Office www.gao.gov/
Congressional Budget Office www.cbo.gov/
National Agricultural Law Center University of Arkansas
Library of Congress Subject Headings: Agriculture and State United
Agricultural Subsidies United States
Environmental Working Group Farm Subsidy Database

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