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History of the United States Farm Bill

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The following is a guest post by Sidonie Devarenne, an intern with the Digital Resources Division of the Law Library of Congress. She is a current student of Library and Information Science at the University of Washington.

Though the farm bill has a tremendous impact on the everyday lives of American citizens, many people may not be familiar with it and all of the areas of policy it affects.

What is the farm bill? 

The farm bill is a multiyear law governing many areas of agricultural and food policy in the United States. It is an omnibus bill, governing a variety of programs and policies related to food and agriculture in the United States. The Farm Bill is renewed every five years or so, and provides Congress the opportunity to address agricultural policy on a regular basis. Due to its omnibus nature, there are many stakeholders with interests in the farm bills. This can create both broad coalitions of support for different programs, as well as debate and competition for funds.

What do the farm bills cover? 

The programs covered in the farm bill are organized by topic into categories called “titles.” The first farm bill, the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, focused on commodity price support and relief for farmers. Over time, the Farm Bills have become more expansive and now include provisions on, for example, “farm commodity revenue supports, agricultural conservation, trade and foreign food assistance, farm credit, research, rural development, forestry, bioenergy, horticulture, and domestic nutrition assistance.”

There have been 18 farm bills to date. The most recent farm bill was the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. The bill includes 12 titles and makes “few major changes to agricultural policy.” Most of the provisions in the bill will last until 2023, when it will be time to negotiate the next farm bill.

Timeline of US farm bills, 1933 to present

Click each link to be taken to the digitized copy of the law. The first 4 come from the Law Library‘s Statutes at Large collection.

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