On Friday, Feb. 7, President Barack Obama signed the 2014 Farm Bill into law after three years of back and forth battles in the United States Congress concerning a variety of measures.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the 959 page legislation is predicted to reduce the national deficit by almost $17 billion. As a result of the passage, funding for food stamps will be decreased by $8 billion over the next 10 years.
The reduction in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) targets an option for added benefits offered to households who are also on federal heating assistance. The option is embraced by 16 states, not including North Carolina, meaning the state’s 1.6 million residents who are receiving some form of SNAP benefit will not be affected.
At least $200 million of the cuts to SNAP will be put back toward creating work-training programs in 10 states for those already on SNAP rolls. In addition, $205 million will go toward increased assistance for food banks, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
In the House of Representatives, U.S. Congressman Mark Meadows (R), who represents the 11th District which includes Macon County, voted to pass the Farm Bill. He had voted for a previous version of the bill that would have cut $40 billion from the food stamp program, but that bill did not carry the votes needed to become law.
“This Farm Bill is the first significant reform to mandatory spending in more than three years, estimated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to save our nation more than $16 billion over 10 years,” Meadows said. “Though I encouraged House leadership and the House Agriculture Committee to include more conservative reforms, I do believe this bill is a step in the right direction. The people of the 11th District agree, as constituents polled prior to the vote supported passage of this legislation three to one.
“While closing loopholes in the food stamp program to save $8 billion, the bill also eliminates or consolidates more than 100 U.S. Department of Agriculture programs and replaces outdated direct subsidies for farmers with a strengthened crop insurance program. Of particular importance to Western North Carolina, it also reauthorizes PILT through 2014. Knowing that PILT impacts every county in my district, I went directly to Speaker [John] Boehner and asked him to reauthorize this program when it recently expired. He followed through on my request by including PILT in this legislation, and these annual payments will go out as scheduled in June.”
The bill passed through the house by a vote of 251-166. In the Senate, Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) supported the bill and also took additional steps to inject specific provisions for North Carolina farmers and rural communities of the state.
“I am so pleased that today, farmers in North Carolina and across the country are finally receiving the certainty that they need,” Hagan said when the bill passed the congress. “This bill is a true win for our state, where agriculture sustains hundreds of thousands of jobs and serves as the lifeblood of many of our rural communities. I am proud that the legislation includes several provisions I worked on to help ensure North Carolina farmers can continue to expand and create jobs and access new safety net measures that will help them recover from events outside their control, and I will continue working to make sure that our state's agriculture industry can continue to grow.”
Some of the provisions that will affect North Carolina are as follows;
Direct payments will also be eliminated as part of the the law and instead of subsidies that are given even when times are good, the law will create risk management tools to help farmers recover from catastrophic events that cannot be helped.
U.S. Senator Richard Burr (NC-R) did not support the bill and was one of the 32 opposing votes in the Senate.
“I voted against final passage of the Conference Report to accompany HR 2642, the Farm Bill,” Burr said in statement after the bill was passed. “Not only does it carry a nearly $1 trillion price tag but most of the funding has nothing to do with farming, let alone providing any certainty to farmers. It also fails to include relief to farmers on burdensome GIPSA Restrictions and Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rules. While I appreciate the efforts of the Conference Committee, its failure to address the crucial needs of North Carolina farmers prevented me from supporting the bill."