Senate Passes Contentious Farm Bill, Organic Industry Benefits

farm bill

Two years and nearly $1 trillion dollars in legislation, and the 2014 Farm Bill has finally cleared the Senate, making its way to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

The touchy bill has been a source of controversy over cuts being made to food assistance programs (SNAP) in favor of more benefits to the nation’s farmers. “[T]he bill would harm 850,000 American households, about 1.7 million people spread across 15 states, which would lose an average of $90 per month in benefits because of the cuts in the food stamp program,” reports the New York Times. Farmers, on the other hand, can expect to see “expanded crop insurance[…]by $7 billion over a decade,” notes the Times, and “new subsidies for rice and peanut growers that would kick in when prices drop.”

But supporters said that overall the bill was a success “given that lawmakers had to address the competing concerns of agriculture interests, anti-hunger advocates, proponents of changes to the international food aid program and budget watchdog groups that want to cut government spending,” reports the Times. “They noted that it is projected to cut $17 billion from the budget over a decade.”

The bill is also being applauded by the Organic Trade Association for the inclusion of several pieces of legislation. The OTA is particularly pleased with benefits to the organic community. “The provisions in the bill passed in the Senate include allowing organic farmers, distributors, and marketers access to the same agriculture research and promotion programs available to conventional farmers by authorizing USDA to consider an application from the organic sector for its own check-off program, as well as clarifying that the current exemption from conventional check-off programs applies to all certified organic operations,” the group said in a statement. “In addition, it provides increased funding for the National Organic Program to enforce organic standards, improve technology, and negotiate international trade agreements, as well as funding for organic research, data collection, and certification cost share.”

“We are pleased that the organic industry received strong support in the Farm Bill that cleared the Senate today,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “More and more, consumers and farmers alike are choosing organic. Giving them that choice is important.”

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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