By Sophie Wenzlau
Earlier this week, the White House Rural Council released a report highlighting the economic importance of reauthorizing the Farm Bill, the United States’ primary food and agriculture policy tool.
The Farm Bill can impact food prices, environmental conservation programs, and international trade. (Photo Credit: wlfarm.org)
The bill—which impacts food prices, environmental conservation programs, international trade, agricultural research, food and nutrition programs, and the well being of rural communities—has been stalled in congress for over a year, in part due to disagreement over reductions to the food stamp program. House Republicans aim to cut $40 billion in food stamp funds over the next 10 years, while Senate Democrats aim to cut only $4 billion.
According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, failure to pass the bill before the end of the year could double milk prices for Americans, spark retaliatory tariffs from Brazil, and leave livestock producers who have been hit by storms and drought without standard federal assistance.
The Obama Administration’s report, which urges Congress to reauthorize as soon as possible, highlights the potential benefits of a new Farm Bill. According to the Administration, the new bill could:
- Build on recent momentum of the U.S. agriculture economy, a key engine of economic growth;
- Continue federal conservation efforts, working alongside a record number of farmers and ranchers to conserve soil and water resources;
- Create a reliable safety net for farmers and ranchers, including a strong crop insurance program, a long-term extension of disaster programs, and retroactive assistance for livestock producers;
- Support research so that the agriculture sector might remain an engine of innovation; and
- Reduce the deficit, via reforms that could save billions of dollars in the coming decade.
The Obama Administration has made it clear that they view the reauthorization of a comprehensive farm bill as a priority, and something of importance for all Americans. To learn more about the Administration’s position on the Farm Bill, you can read the full report here.
Sophie Wenzlau is a senior fellow at the Worldwatch Institute.