The U.S. Senate passed a $955 billion farm bill last Monday, which sets the national farm policy for the next five years. In an article posted on The Washington Post, a breakdown of how the $955 billion will be allocated was especially useful for my understanding.
The largest portion of the bill, $760.5 billion, was allocated toward food stamps and nutrition. Food stamps and nutrition payments were reduced by $20.5 billion as compared to the current policy. The article also points to a controversial amendment by David Vitter to ban individuals who were convicted of a violent crime from collecting food-stamp benefits for life.
The second largest portion of the bill, $89 billion over 10 years, is what I am most excited about. The article says $89 billion was allocated for crop insurance. Crop insurance protects farmers against natural disasters, which may cause them to lose crops. It also shields farmers from dropped prices of a certain commodity or crop that they invested in. These two forms of insurance are referred to as crop-yield insurance and crop-revenue insurance.
For many farmers, having either crop-yield insurance or crop-revenue insurance is an essential part of their planning. While crop insurance never pays out the full amount that a farmer would garner from a successful harvest, the insurance does keep farmers in business in case of a drought, hailstorm, or a steep drop in commodity prices.
In the past, there was a payout for all farmers regardless if the farmer was growing the particular crop. The new bill addresses this by removing the payout and expanding crop insurance. This way, only farmers that are affected by a natural disaster or price drop will receive support.
According to the article, the Environmental Working Group fought to limit the amount of subsidies the largest farms could receive. Partially due to their efforts, the senate will limit the amount of subsidies that farms making over $750,000 can receive.
While crop insurance is great news for all farmers, it is especially good news for organic farms. Organic foods is often viewed as a niche market, one that has lately been increasing market share. I hope that the support that this bill inspires organic farmers to be more secure in their investments. This is a great opportunity for organic farmers to expand and gain even more market share.
As new information about the health and environmental dangers of pesticides and GMOs comes forward, the more we see a push away from traditional farming and a move towards organic farming. I hope that this new bill will give way for organic farmers to feel more confident in their crops, especially for smaller local farms.
While this bill does not specifically address organic farmers, I think it’s a great start and possibly a new beginning. It’s a step in the right direction and hopefully, the federal government will address the need for national organic farming support. We really need to make the government realize how important organic farming is to the human species and the Earth.
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Steve Cruz is a blogger and recent Stony Brook University graduate. He is an actor, avid organic farming enthusiast and traveler.