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Long Delayed Farm Bill Passes Congress

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February 7, 2014

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Long Delayed Farm Bill Passes Congress

After years of protracted negotiations and delays, the Senate voted 63-32 to pass a new, five-year Farm Bill on Tuesday. The House approved the compromise bill last week.  At nearly 1,000 pages long, the legislation is the cornerstone of federal agriculture policy with implications for a wide-range of issues, including forestry, research, energy, nutrition, social welfare, job training and education.

The bill makes changes to the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program —providing funding for training, education, outreach, and technical assistance initiatives that support the next generation of farmers and ranchers— that will now include a focus on military veterans who want to begin a career in agriculture. It requires that not less than 5 percent of annual funds for the program will be used to make grants to support programs and services that address the needs of military veterans starting out in farming and ranching. The current program funds competitive grants to regional partnerships of public and private institutions.  The 2014 Farm Bill gives priority to partnerships that include school-based agricultural education organizations.

The bill cuts funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, by $8 billion over the next 10 years. It also incorporates new policies to prioritize employment and training services in SNAP. Over $200 million was authorized  to carry out  pilot programs in up to ten states that will develop and test methods for employment and training programs and services with the goal of reducing unemployment, increasing wages, and promoting the skills development and workforce training that will reduce reliance on public assistance of SNAP recipients.

Additionally, it establishes a $25 million Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program to promote “food, garden, and nutrition education”. The competitive grant program will build on the efforts of existing farm-to-school initiatives in connecting local growers with schools.

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