After three years of negotiations, a bipartisan compromise to reauthorize agriculture and nutrition policy has become law. On 7 February, President Obama signed the farm bill. A few days earlier, the Senate approved the legislation with the support of 68 Senators. H.R. 2642 passed the House of Representatives on 29 January with a vote of 251 Representatives in favor and 166 against.

Partisan fights over funding for food assistance to the poor, as well as subsidies to farmers held up the measure’s progress. The bill commits $956 billion over a decade. Although 80 percent of that total will be directed to nutrition programs, some funding is included for conservation efforts. Notably, farmers will have to follow basic conservation requirements in order to receive federal crop insurance subsidies on highly erodible land and wetlands. The $57 billion allocated for environmental conservation is $6 billion less than what was included in the last farm bill.

Opposition to the bill came from Democrats who thought the cuts to food stamps and conservation programs were too steep, as well as from Republicans who sought larger funding reductions and more stringent reforms of crop subsidies.

With respect to research, H.R. 2642 extends through fiscal year 2018 grants for university agricultural research, fellowships for food and agricultural sciences education, and grants for international agricultural science and education. To the dismay of some in the research community, the bill also requires the recipient of a competitive grant that involves applied research or extension and that is commodity- or state-specific to provide matching funds or in-kind contributions.

The legislation also includes a Senate provision that will create a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research to promote public/private partnerships and investments in research.

The final bill does not include a provision from the House version of the legislation that would have supported research on and protection of pollinators.


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