If it feels like you’ve been hearing about Congress trying to pass the farm bill for years and years, it’s because you have. The House and the Senate have been lobbing versions back and forth to each other for more than three years now.  

The bill that President Obama is expected to sign into law is 956 pages long. I would be lying if I said I understood all the details about it (and so, I suspect, would most of our representatives in D.C.). But as I’ve been reading and trying to understand some of the details, I’ve noted a few things, and here are a few. I’ve linked to the sources of the information so that you can read more information if you want to.

1. Total spending the farm bill is estimated to be $956.4 billion, but is expected to save around $23 billion “based on budgeting that existed when the last farm bill passed in 2008.” A good amount of the funds cut would have been direct payments to farmers who didn’t farm. (via Washington Post)

2. However, $8.7 billion of the cuts came from cutting food stamps. Some families on food stamps could see an average of $90 less a month. Which, I suppose, is better than the cuts they would have received if some representatives had gotten the $39 billion in food stamps cuts they wanted. The cuts will only affect 15 states plus Washington, D.C. (via MSNBC)

3. More money is going into sushi rice. The government will now make up the difference to farmers who grow sushi rice if the market price goes too low. It will most likely increase the number of farmers who choose to grow sushi rice in the country. (via CNN)

4. Hemp got some respect in the bill. There is money in the farm bill for pilot programs in 10 states to grow hemp. Funny thing is, though, federal drug laws bar the cultivation of hemp. Because of those laws, we import most of our hemp from China, but the money from the farm bill will go to states that have removed the barriers to growing hemp. (via Greenbiz)

5. Insurance for organic farmers is improved. Up until now, organic farmers could only insure their crops for the same price as conventional crops. Now they will be able to insure their crops through the "Federal Crop Insurance Agency at prices in line with their retail value." (via Politico)

There will be a lot of discussion about whether the farm bill is good or bad in the upcoming days, particularly until the president actually signs it. One source for reliable analysis that I’ll be using is Marion Nestle’s Food Politics blog. She already has several posts about the farm bill, and I expect she’ll have many more in the days to come.

What details in the farm bill that you’ve learned about are standing out to you?

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