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What’s in the House’s $867 billion farm bill?

The House has advanced a farm bill that would cost $867 billion over the next 10 years in a combination of subsidies and protections intended to support and stabilize American farmers. The legislation would boost assistance for dairy farmers, prevent cuts in the food stamp program and legalize industrial hemp, among other provisions. Judy Woodruff speaks with Lisa Desjardins for more.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, first, let's look at another piece of legislation that was just approved by Congress today.

    It is the wide-ranging farm bill with a cost of $867 billion over 10 years. It reauthorizes a variety of farm and food programs. Among other things, this bill would provide new help for dairy farmers and legalize industrial hemp. It also avoids cuts that had been proposed to the food stamp program.

    Our own Lisa Desjardins joins me now from Capitol Hill to dig into the details.

    So, Lisa, remind us, overall, what's in the bill and why does this bill matter?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This bill is critical to a large part of America that doesn't necessarily live in cities and towns, but keeps this country fed.

    There are two million farms in this country, Judy, and that number has been decreasing. What's more, farmers in America since 2013 have seen their net income — listen to this — drop by half.

    What the farm bill does is, it keeps programs in place that help stabilize farms. Some of them are subsidy programs, some insurance programs. But if it doesn't get reauthorized, farmers have less stability, and these are people who basically are Wall Street traders on tractors every day.

    Prices matter. And this bill helps them get loans and pay for and plan their next season. Without it, there's a lot of instability.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, one of the things we mentioned was dairy farmers.

    What kind of help are they getting, and how does that make a difference?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, it's significant because dairy farmers in particular have been hit by retaliation from the Trump tariffs.

    So, let's go through exactly what's happening in this bill. This will expand the program that is a safety net for dairy farmers. In fact, it will give them seven times the protection that they had in the last farm bill. It would allow more farmers to take advantage of that dairy price support.

    And also, Judy, it's important to note, some conservatives wanted this bill to tackle the idea of subsidy reform. That is not in this bill. That's a bigger conversation. That's one reason people like Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley voted no.

    But, overall, dairy farmers are some of the bigger winners in this bill.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa, another part of the bill that has gotten a lot of attention is food stamps, the so-called SNAP program. Tell us how the bill changes that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    So, food stamps make up — the spending for food stamps — 80 percent of the farm bill's funding.

    And there was a huge fight over whether there should be more work requirements. Now, the food stamp program, or SNAP, reaches 42 million people. But there will be no changes that could mean cuts in that program.

    Some conservatives wanted to add work requirements that would have led to fewer people getting those benefits. But that won't happen in this bill. Instead, Judy, I have learned from multiple sources on both sides of the Capitol that the secretary of agriculture, Secretary Perdue, is expected within the next couple of days to try and flex administrative power to launch a new rule that could mean more people, especially in cities and towns, might have to abide by work requirements.

    Basically, it means cities couldn't opt out of those work requirements. We will have to watch for that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, of course, it's a farm bill, but there's also language in here that addresses wildfires. So, tell us about that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This is pivotal.

    There are some new provisions — and there have been over the last year — that allow for better use — better guaranteed funding to fight wildfires. But, Judy, what's most significant here was that some conservatives wanted to change rules allowing for more logging, more clear-cutting, they say something that would prevent wildfires.

    They say environmentalists were getting in the way. However, Democrats put up a very large fight. They said that that was actually a problem, that too much logging would come from those changes. And, in the end, those changes were not made, so a victory, if you will, for environmentalists on that part of the bill.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, finally, Lisa, language in here about the legalization of hemp.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right. This is a big deal, a potential $20 billion industry.

    This is happening because Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a state which has a very large hemp industry, wants to — wanted to move from being a controlled substance, which it is now, to not a controlled substance.

    Judy, quickly, there is an oil that is created from hemp that doesn't have THC in it. And this is a victory for Mitch McConnell personally and for the hemp industry at large, some of which goes to medical purposes and other things. So it's something to watch very closely.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, a lot going on inside this farm bill, and we are so glad to have you to help us understand what is there.

    Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol, thank you.

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