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History of the Farm Bill
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Farm Policy 101 Subsidies and the Farm Bill World Trade Organization (WTO) Implications

What Is The Farm Bill?

Do you think of complicated subsidies or cornfields in the Midwest when you think of farm policy? You'd be partially right, but the farm bill is much more than an agricultural aid package. You might be surprised to learn the farm bill influences you everyday. From the cost and availability of your food, to the tools available to your community to protect farm and ranch land.

The farm bill is a package of federal legislation enacted every five to seven years to set the general direction for America’s farm and food policy. Congress enacted the first farm bill in the wake of the Great Depression. To provide a bit of background and to prepare for the 2012 Farm Bill, we've put together a Farm Bill 101 [PDF] primer.

2008 Farm Bill BreakdownThe 2008 Farm Bill: A New Direction in Farm Policy

When American Farmland Trust set started our national farm bill campaign in 2005, we set out to create a better, more cost-effective safety net for farmers and ranchers while expanding programs to strengthen conservation and land protection, advance rural prosperity, and create greater access to local and healthy food for consumers. In short, we set out to create a new direction for farm and food policy in the United States: one that better meets the needs of all Americans.

The 2008 Farm Bill did not include all the reforms and improvements we fought for, but it represents a step in the right direction and a significant improvement over existing U.S. farm and food policy. Overall, new funding for conservation programs increased by $4billion, which means cleaner water, cleaner air, reduced soil erosion and enhanced wildlife habitat.

Farm Bill 2002-2007 Budget Breakdown
Farm Bill Budget '02-'07
Source: USDA Budget Data

The 2002 Farm bill: Setting the stage for change

The 2002 Farm Bill was an enormous bill, passed during a moment of budget surpluses; it provided more money for everything.

The 2002 Farm Bill Authorized a Public Investment of $274 Billion Over Six Years

There were important new conservation programs such as the Conservation Security Program and overall more funding for programs to clean our air and water and protect our farmland and wildlife habitat.

However, the 2002 bill also continued out-dated government support programs creating heated disputes with U.S. trading partners and increasing calls for reform of U.S. farm policies. More on subsidies in past farm bills.

American Farmland Trust