The new bill would also end a long-criticized crop subsidy program that makes direct payments to farmers, replacing it in part with an enhanced crop insurance program. Another provision would aid livestock producers who are hit by natural disasters and severe weather, such as droughts and springtime freezes.
But critics who feel those changes don't go far enough say, "It's moonshine by another name," as Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group tells The Wall Street Journal.
(NPR's Dan Charles reported for The Salt last year that an Environmental Working Group analysis of the existing crop insurance program found that the government would save itself billions of dollars if it simply took over the crop insurance program and gave away a simpler version for free.)
As speculation built that the Farm Bill would come out today, news of its possible provisions trickled out. For instance, the growth of industrial hemp would be allowed under the bill, the AP reported Friday.
In another closely watched issue, stronger animal welfare standards that were adopted in recent years by California and other states would not be outlawed by the new farm bill, despite attempts to insert an amendment to that effect.
"This is a victory for state's rights," Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calf., tells The Fresno Bee. Denham warned that the amendment "would have led to a race to the bottom for agriculture production laws nationwide and imperiled the fate of California egg producers."
The Bee reports:
"The potential inclusion of the animal welfare provision, authored by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, had imperiled Californians' support for the overall bill. King's amendment targeted state provisions such as California's Proposition 2, a 2008 measure that required that certain animals be able to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs while confined."
Update at 9 p.m. ET: A Tally Of The Costs, Cuts
The total savings of the new farm bill is estimated at around $23 billion, according to a preliminary tally of the large new bill from congressional aides that NPR's Tamara Keith has sent along.
That number is arrived at by taking $10 billion in increased expenses for things such as crop insurance and support for specialty crops and bio-energy away from the total cuts of $33 billion, which are summarized here:
- $19 billion cut from farm subsidy programs
- $6 billion cut by combining 23 conservation programs into 13 programs
- $8 billion cut from food assistance programs (reportedly by reducing fraud and abuse)