Congress Approves Farm Bill, UCSB Students React


Allyson Werner
National Beat Reporter

President Barack Obama signed the $956 billion farm bill on Friday, Feb. 7, at Michigan State University, which will replace crop payments with an insurance program and cut $8 billion from food stamps.

“We’ve had the strongest stretch of farm exports in our history,” said Obama to a group of more than 500 farmers. “We are selling more stuff to more people than ever before. What we grow here and what we sell is a huge boost to the entire economy, but particularly the rural economy.”

Previously, on Tuesday, Feb. 4, Congress approved the massive, five-year farm bill, after four years of arguments over farm subsidies and Republican efforts to reduce funding for food stamps.

The bill includes a variety of measures that will affect residents and food production in all 50 states.

According to ABC, the farm bill has five major implications for American citizens, including University of California, Santa Barbara students.

First, the majority of the spending will go to the food stamp or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); however, the program will still experience approximately $800 million (or around 1 percent) in cuts. The remainder of the money will go to farm subsidies and environmental initiatives to protect sensitive lands.

Second, the new farm bill maintains federal farm subsidies. $4.5 billion a year will go to a subsidy called direct payments, paid to farmers whether they farm or not; however, a new subsidy will require that farmers incur losses before they can collect from the federal government. In addition, $520 million more a year will be dedicated to crop insurance.

Third, there will be a crackdown on food stamp fraud by retailers and consumers. The new farm bill will prohibit lottery winners and convicted murderers and sex offenders from receiving food stamps.

Fourth, the federal government will relax hemp laws, allowing 10 states to grow the crop for research purposes. Hemp is marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin, and the federal government had previously blocked the crop’s cultivation.

Lastly, the farm bill signifies a win for animal rights groups. The new farm bill will not block a California law that requires eggs come from hens that live in larger cages. Animal rights groups also won language that will make it a federal crime to attend animal fighting events.

Despite its drastic effects, UCSB students are, for the most part, unfamiliar with the new farm bill. In a brief survey, 75 percent of respondents indicated that they were previously unaware of the new legislation.

Melanie Arce, a fourth-year global studies major, commented on the cut to SNAP.

“I feel some kind of change is necessary, but I think this cut will result in more negative outcomes than positive ones (for example healthcare problems and national hunger),” she said. “The goal should be to change how SNAP works.”

Another fourth-year, who wishes to remain anonymous, expressed disapproval toward the SNAP cuts.

“As a child that grew up on food stamps, I do not agree with this budget cut at all,” she said.

Overall, UCSB students said very little about farm subsidies and the other aspects of the farm bill.