March 12, 2014
The 2014 Farm Bill (Agricultural Act of 2014, P.L. 113-79)
What Is the Farm Bill?
The farm bill is an omnibus, multi-year piece of authorizing
legislation that governs an array of agricultural and food
programs. Although agricultural policies sometimes are
created and changed by freestanding legislation or as part of
other major laws, the farm bill provides a predictable
opportunity for policymakers to comprehensively and
periodically address agricultural and food issues.
The farm bill is typically renewed about every five years.
Seventeen farm bills have been enacted since the 1930s
(2014, 2008, 2002, 1996, 1990, 1985, 1981, 1977, 1973,
1970, 1965, 1956, 1954, 1949, 1948, 1938, and 1933).
Farm bills traditionally have focused on farm commodity
program support for a handful of staple commodities—
corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, rice, dairy, and sugar. Yet
farm bills have become increasingly expansive in nature
since 1973, with the inclusion of a nutrition title. Other
prominent additions have been conservation, horticulture,
and bioenergy programs.
The omnibus nature of the farm bill can create broad
coalitions of support among sometimes conflicting interests
for policies that individually might not survive the
legislative process. This can stir fierce competition for
funds. In recent years, more parties have become involved
in the debate, including national farm groups, commodity
associations, state organizations, and nutrition and public
health officials, as well as advocacy groups representing
conservation, recreation, rural development, faith-based
interests, local food systems, and organic production.
The farm bill provides an opportunity for Congress to
comprehensively and periodically address agricultural
and food issues, and is renewed about every five years.
The Agricultural Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79, H.Rept. 113333), referred to here as the “2014 farm bill,” is the most
recent omnibus farm bill. It was enacted in February 2014
and succeeded the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of
2008 (P.L. 110-246, “2008 farm bill”). The 2014 farm bill
contains 12 titles encompassing commodity price and
income supports, farm credit, trade, agricultural
conservation, research, rural development, energy, and
foreign and domestic food programs, among others.
Provisions in the 2014 farm bill reshape the structure of
farm commodity support, expand crop insurance coverage,
consolidate conservation programs, reauthorize and revise
nutrition assistance, and extend authority to appropriate
funds for many U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
discretionary programs through FY2018. USDA reports
that implementing the 2014 farm bill over the next few
years will require about 150 rulemaking actions, and more
than 40 studies and reports.
The 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79), by Title
Title I, Commodity Programs: Provides support for major
commodity crops, including wheat, corn, soybeans, peanuts, rice,
dairy, and sugar, as well as disaster assistance.
Title II, Conservation: Encourages environmental stewardship
of farmlands and improved management through land retirement
and/or working lands programs.
Title III, Trade: Provides support for U.S. agricultural export
programs and international food assistance programs.
Title IV, Nutrition: Provides nutrition assistance for low-income
households through programs including the Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Title V, Credit: Supports federal direct and guaranteed loans to
farmers and ranchers.
Title VI, Rural Development: Supports business and
community programs and coordination activities with other local,
state, and federal programs.
Title VII, Research, Extension, and Related Matters:
Supports agricultural research and extension programs.
Title VIII, Forestry: Supports forestry management programs
run by USDA’s Forest Service.
Title IX, Energy: Supports the development of farm and
community renewable energy systems through various programs,
including grants and loan guarantees.
Title X, Horticulture: Supports the production of specialty
crops—fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and floriculture and
ornamental products—through a range of initiatives.
Title XI, Crop Insurance: Enhances coverage of the
permanently authorized federal crop insurance program.
Title XII, Miscellaneous: Other types of programs and
assistance not covered in other bill titles, including provisions
affecting livestock and poultry production.
Without a new farm bill or an extension, the authority for
some farm programs would expire and some would cease to
operate altogether unless reauthorized. Also, new activities
under some old programs might not be initiated, for lack of
either program authority or available funding. Nutrition
assistance programs require periodic reauthorization if they
are to continue. The farm commodity programs not only
expire, but would revert to permanent law dating back to
the 1940s. Many discretionary programs would not have
statutory authority to receive appropriations in future years.
Other programs have permanent authority and do not need
to be reauthorized (e.g., crop insurance), but might be
included to make changes for policy or budgetary goals.
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The 2014 Farm Bill (Agricultural Act of 2014, P.L. 113-79)
What Is the Estimated Cost?
The farm bill authorizes programs in two spending
categories: mandatory and discretionary. Mandatory
programs generally operate as entitlements; the farm bill
pays for them using multi-year budget estimates when the
law is enacted. Discretionary programs are authorized for
their scope, but are not funded in the farm bill; they are
subject to appropriations. While both types of programs are
important, mandatory programs often dominate the farm
At enactment of the 2014 farm bill, the Congressional
Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the total cost of
mandatory programs (Table 1) would be $489 billion over
the next five years (FY2014-FY2018).
The overwhelming share (99%) of estimated total net
outlays is anticipated for four farm bill titles: nutrition, crop
insurance, conservation, and farm commodity support
(Figure 1). Of the projected net outlays, about 80% is for
the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Farm commodity support and crop insurance are expected
to account for 13% of mandatory program costs, with
another 6% of costs in USDA conservation programs.
Programs in all other farm bill titles are expected to account
for about 1% of all mandatory expenditures.
CBO estimated that the total cost of mandatory
programs in the 2014 farm bill would be $489 billion
over the next five years (FY2014-FY2018).
Figure 1. Share of Projected Outlays, 2014 Farm Bill
(billions of dollars, FY2014-FY2018)
If the 2008 farm bill had continued, CBO estimated that
mandatory outlays would have been $494 billion for the
five-year period FY2014-FY2018. Including changes in
revenues, the five-year net impact of the 2014 farm bill on
the deficit is an estimated change of -$5.3 billion (-1.1%)
over five years. (On a ten-year basis, the score is -$16.6
billion, with ten-year projected outlays of $956.4 billion.)
The net reduction in expected outlays is the result of some
titles receiving more funding, while other titles provide
offsets. The titles for farm commodity subsidies, nutrition,
and conservation provide budgetary savings. The titles for
crop insurance, research, bioenergy, horticulture, rural
development, trade, forestry, and miscellaneous items
receive additional funding.
Table 1. 2014 Farm Bill Budget, by Title (P.L. 113-79)
(millions of dollars, FY2014-FY2018)
2014 Farm Bill Titles
Source: CRS, using the CBO baseline and 2014 farm bill cost
estimates (http://www.cbo.gov/publication/45049); CBO, “May 2013
Baseline for the 2008 Farm Bill Programs and Provisions, by Title,”
unpublished, May 2013; and “Updated Budget Projections: Fiscal
Years 2013 to 2023,” May 14, 2013 (http://cbo.gov/publication/
44172). Reflects mandatory outlays in millions of dollars (FY2014FY2018).
Source: CRS, using CBO’s 2014 farm bill cost estimates
(http://www.cbo.gov/publication/45049). Shows five-year projected
mandatory outlays, FY2014-FY2018, in billions of dollars by title.
Of the total estimated mandatory outlays, $391 billion is for
nutrition assistance and $98 billion is mostly geared toward
agriculture production (Table 1). Within the agriculture
portion, crop insurance outlays are projected to be $41
billion over the next five years, conservation $28 billion,
and farm commodity programs $24 billion. The trade title is
projected to spend $1.8 billion over the next five years,
horticulture $0.9 billion, research $0.8 billion, and
bioenergy $0.6 billion.
For more information, see CRS Report R43076, The 2014
Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79): Summary and Side-by-Side; CRS
Report R22131, What Is the Farm Bill?; and CRS Report
R42484, Budget Issues Shaping the 2014 Farm Bill.
Additional CRS reports include CRS Report R41433,
Expiring Farm Bill Programs Without a Budget Baseline;
and CRS Report R42442, Expiration and Extension of the
2008 Farm Bill.
Renée Johnson, email@example.com, 7-9588; and
Jim Monke, firstname.lastname@example.org, 7-9664.
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