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January 30th, 2014

Two Years Later, the House Passes the 2012 Farm Bill

Patty Lovera

Food & Water Watch Assistant Director Patty Lovera

By Patty Lovera

I was starting to wonder if this day would ever come. Yesterday, the House passed their final Farm Bill. In case you missed it, the saga for this Farm Bill has been fairly epic – not because of what got accomplished, but for how dysfunctional the process became.  

So here’s how it all worked out: the nicest thing you can say about this final Farm Bill is it’s a mixed bag.

The final bill cuts the nutrition safety net for low-income families by almost $9 billion over 10 years (compared to the House version of the bill which would have cut $40 billion).

It ends direct payments to commodity crop producers (payments made every year regardless of crop prices) and emphasizes subsidized crop insurance as the primary farm safety net. Missing from the final bill’s commodity section are the real reforms we need, including restoring grain reserve programs that could be used to provide stability for farmers and rein in overproduction of these commodity crops.

At many points in the process it looked like the final bill was going to be a lot worse. In the final stage of the process, when the conference committee was reconciling the different versions of the bill passed by the House and Senate, you helped us tell the committee to do the right thing on a long list of topics. And we were able to stop Big Food’s attacks on important programs:

  • Country of origin labeling – The final bill does not weaken country of origin labeling for meat.
  • Competitive markets – The final bill does not prevent USDA from enforcing rules that protect poultry growers from abusive contract provisions used by large poultry processors.
  • Organic – Organic programs fared very well in the final stages of the process, and the final bill contains more money for organic research and for helping new operations get certified as organic.
  • Catfish inspection – The final bill did not end a new inspection program for domestic and imported catfish run by USDA.
  • Food safety – The final bill does not include a provision to prevent FDA from finishing regulations on produce safety.  
  • The King Amendment – The final bill does not include the controversial King Amendment, which would have banned state governments from enacting laws that put conditions on how agriculture and livestock from other states was produced or raised.
  • Factory farm secrecy – The final bill does not include several amendments that would have significantly reduced the disclosure of publicly available data and information on factory farms.

Some other critical programs didn’t fare as well, including inadequate funding for programs for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and dairy policy that doesn’t provide basic protections for small-scale dairy farmers.

The Senate is expected to pass this Farm Bill soon and the president is expected to sign it. Then, the more than two-year long process of finishing the 2012 Farm Bill will be complete.

Over the past two years, tens of thousands of Food & Water Watch supporters told their elected officials what they wanted in this Farm Bill, which made the final bill better than it would have been without your input. Food & Water Watch is committed to continuing the fight for a food and farm system that’s truly fair and sustainable, transparent and healthy. You with us?

4 Comments on Two Years Later, the House Passes the 2012 Farm Bill

  1. Thanks for your leadership through this long, dysfunctional process.

  2. Holly says:

    Glad the verdict is finally in. A lot of people patiently waiting for the bill to pass. I don’t know if it’s good or bad. Dramatically cutting aid to low income families and farmers is bad news. As you said, it could have worse but glad we can move ahead! Thanks, Patty!

  3. Lucy Garcia says:

    20725 Lemarsh Street, #F
    Thank you for all this important work.
    As a high school environmental studies and biology teacher, can you recommend materials that we can use? I have already shown Food, Inc. and the Story of Bottled Water and Blue Gold, but I’d like material that highlights the science behind the fact that organic farming can feed the world, and that local farming is more resilient in times of changing climate. Any suggestions?

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