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Farm Bill Passes Congress

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If you have been listening to the news lately, then you’ve probably heard something about the "Farm Bill."  The farm bill is the primary agriculture and food legislation of the federal government, and it is revisited every five years by Congress.  The current bill will authorize spending for agriculture, conservation, and nutrition programs for fiscal years 2014-2018.  The major outcomes from the bill are reforms to farm policy, mainly farm insurance and subsidy changes, changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), and also some other reforms and changes to regulatory policy.  If you want a more detailed explanation of all the components of the law, look here for the entire bill summary and here for a shorter committee report.

The bill passed the House last week 251-166 and then passed the Senate yesterday 68-32, both with bi-partisan votes.  The North Carolina delegation was split on the farm bill’s issues.

  • Rep. Butterfield – Yea
  • Rep. Ellmers – Yea
  • Rep. Jones – Absent
  • Rep. Price – Yea
  • Rep. Foxx – No
  • Rep. Coble – Yea
  • Rep. McIntyre – Yea
  • Rep. Hudson – Yea
  • Rep. Pittenger – No
  • Rep. McHenry – Yea
  • Rep. Meadows – Yea
  • Rep. Holding – No
  • Senator Burr – No
  • Senator Hagan – Yea

Budget Impact

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the 2014 farm bill will result in $956 billion direct spending over the next ten years, of which $756 billion (or 79%) will be for nutrition programs.  Spending on commodity programs will be reduced by $14.3 billion that is partially offset by an increase in spending for crop insurance programs of $5.7 billion.  This increase in crop insurance is intended to take the place of the direct payments to farmers, which were eliminated in the bill.  In total, this farm bill achieves net savings of approximately $16.6 billion over the next ten years.

Changes to the Food Stamp Program

The most controversial fiscal change the law implements is a reduction of $800 million per year in the food stamp program.  Many media outlets have been focusing on this one issue, and unfortunately all the farm bill does is close the "heat-and-eat" loophole of which many states have been taking advantage. 

Let me explain.  Under the previous farm bill, if a household received a subsidy through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) — even just $1 — then they were eligible for an increase in their food stamp amount.  The new farm bill changes that.  It saves $800 million per year by raising the minimum energy subsidy states can make to households through LIHEAP to $20.

See below for North Carolina’s food stamp funding and LIHEAP funding.

SNAP Federal Benefits to North Carolina and the entire United States

FY 2009

FY 2010

FY 2011

FY 2012

FY 2013


$1.625 billion

$2.072 billion

$2.377 billion

$2.430 billion

$2.491 billion


$50.359 billion

$64.702 billion

$71.810 billion

$74.619 billion

$76.067 billion

North Carolina LIHEAP Funding

Fiscal Year


NC Allocation



$3.0 billion

$76.5 m



$3.30 billion

$78 m



$3.47 billion

$83 m



$4.71 billion

$116.2 m



$5.1 billion

$127 m



$5.1 billion

$132.5 m


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Sarah Curry is Director of Fiscal Policy Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Previously, she worked for the North Carolina State Senate as a research assistant for the chairs of the Senate Agricultural Committee and headed the research efforts for… ...

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