Farm Bill Resources
The United States addresses agricultural and food policy through a variety of programs, including commodity support, nutrition assistance, and conservation. The primary legal framework for agricultural policy is set through a legislative process that occurs approximately every 5 years. The current farm law (the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008) was written to remain in force through 2012. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) extended most of the provisions of the 2008 Farm Act without change through the end of the 2013 fiscal year, crop year, or calendar year.
ERS analysts examine the economic effects of current farm programs on producers, consumers, taxpayers and rural communities, and evaluate potential effects of alternative policies and programs. ERS also provides a comparison of current and previous farm bills.
• Key Changes under ATRA
• 2008 Farm Bill: Side-By-Side Comparison
• ERS Policy-Related Research
American Taxpayer Relief Act and Appropriations
While ATRA extended most 2008 Farm Act provisions without change, there are some exceptions, as noted below. Programs extended with mandatory Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funding were automatically able to spend up to authorized levels or provide program payments as long as recipients meet eligibility requirements. Programs extended with discretionary funding, however, require annual appropriations to operate.
The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013, signed into law on March 25, 2013, was the legislative vehicle to provide annual appropriations for 2013. Many, but not all, of the extended programs received appropriations. Those that did not, remain unfunded despite their extension, except for a few programs noted below that were extended with authorization to use CCC funding remaining from their 2008 Farm Act authorizations.
Key Changes Under ATRA
- Programs not extended--A small number of programs were not extended, most notably the disaster assistance program, Supplemental Revenue Assistance (SURE). Most other programs not extended were pilot programs or mandated studies that have been completed.
- Programs extended with implementation changes—Some programs were extended with minor changes in implementation, most notably the Direct and Countercyclical Program (DCP) and Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE). Under the extended program, all eligible participants in 2013 were allowed to enroll in either DCP or ACRE for the 2013 crop year. Eligible producers who were enrolled in ACRE in 2012 were allowed to enroll in DCP in 2013 or could re-enroll in ACRE in 2013 (and vice versa).
- Programs extended with funding changes—
- Some programs were reauthorized with reduced funding, most notably the SNAP-Ed and SNAP employment and Training Program.
- Some programs that had been previously authorized with mandatory CCC funding were extended with discretionary funding (annual appropriations) only.
- Some programs were extended without any additional funding authority, but were authorized to spend in FY2013 any funds remaining from their original authorizations under the 2008 Farm Act.
- Programs extended only with discretionary funding or with authority to spend remaining funds included a mix of conservation, rural development, research, energy, horticulture, organic, livestock, and disaster assistance programs.
- Most of the programs extended with funding changes were no longer included in the ongoing Congressional budget allocation for farm programs, known as the baseline. For programs included in the baseline, Congress assumes that funding will continue under future Farm Bills unless they act to stop it. For programs not included in the baseline, the presumption is reversed—funding is available only if Congress acts to make it available. Programs without baseline at the expiration of the 2008 Farm Act remain without baseline even if they received continued appropriations for 2013.
Further details on the extension of agricultural programs under the American Taxpayer Relief Act can be found in the Congressional Research Service report Expiration and Extension of the 2008 Farm Bill.
2008 Farm Bill: Side-By-Side Comparison
In the 2008 Farm Bill Side-By-Side, ERS presents an overview of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 and a side-by-side comparison of previous legislation and the 2008 Act. Included are a users' guide, an alphabetical list of key provisions, and search capabilities within the side by side.
ERS Policy-Related Research
The core research and data program of the Economic Research Service covers the breadth of USDA programs touched by the Farm Bill: farming, nutrition, conservation, rural development, research, and energy. See some recent research focusing on these issues.
2008 Farm Bill: Background Publications
The 2002 Farm Bill: Provisions and Economic Implications
1996 Farm Bill Side by Side
For more information, see these policy-related topics: