The arduous process of completing the farm bill in the House and Senate is over, but outside of D.C. the early stages of implementation are just beginning.
According to a Purdue Extension agricultural economist, the bill, passed by the Senate on Tuesday and scheduled for the President's signature on Friday, still has a few specifics that will need to be ironed out.
Roman Keeney, who specializes in agricultural policy, said the USDA will be left to analyze and interpret what is included in the bill's more than 900 pages. The department will then be charged with writing the rules that determine how the farm bill will be implemented.
The $956.4 billion bill immediately eliminates direct payments for all commodities except cotton and instead offers farmers an enhanced safety net that includes insurance revisions and higher base-price levels – or the crop price at which farmers could claim payment.
A vast majority of the bill's cost – about 75% -- is in nutrition programs, while 15% goes to commodities and the rest divvied up among conservation programs, university research and risk management for specialty crops.
But, says Keeney, the process of making law goes well beyond what is actually written into the law.
"Agencies, in this case the USDA, will have a big role to play in setting out the very specific rules that will determine how the programs look when farmers go in and participate," he says.
As part of the bill, farmers will now have the opportunity to choose between Agricultural Risk Coverage or Price Loss Coverage, depending on which program best suits individual farms. Along with that decision will come options for varying degrees of crop insurance coverage and other supplemental programs to protect farmers from yield and revenue losses.
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