Posted by EWG Staff on July 11, 2011

What is the farm bill?

It’s a huge and comprehensive piece of legislation that drives federal spending and policies on agriculture, nutrition and conservation programs. In just one year – 2010 – farm bill programs spent $96.3 billion. How those dollars are used makes a big difference to our health and the environment.

The farm bill is usually debated and passed every five years. The last one, passed in 2008, was formally named the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 and weighed in at 1,770 pages. By comparison, the 2010 health reform law, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, clocked in at 1,990 pages. Tolstoy’s War and Peace is a comparatively trim 1,475 pages (in paperback).

Since the farm bill covers many topics, they are organized into fifteen “Titles.” They’re like chapters in a book. The three most important titles are “Title 1” or the “Commodity Title,” which deals with long-standing support programs for farmers who grow grains. “Title II,” the Conservation Title,” provides money and technical help to farmers to protect soil, water and wildlife. “Title IV” contains the all-important nutrition and feeding programs for low-income Americans, especially women, children and infants.

The farm bill sets legislators’ funding priorities across these areas.

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