The farm bill is an omnibus, multi-year law that governs an array of agricultural and food
programs. Titles in the most recent farm bill encompassed farm commodity price and income
supports, agricultural conservation, farm credit, trade, research, rural development, bioenergy,
foreign food aid, and domestic nutrition assistance. Because it is renewed about every five years,
the farm bill provides a predictable opportunity for policymakers to comprehensively and
periodically address agricultural and food issues.
The most recent farm bill—the Agricultural Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79; 2014 farm bill)—was
enacted into law in February 2014 and expires in 2018. It succeeded the Food, Conservation, and
Energy Act of 2008. Provisions in the 2014 farm bill reshaped the structure of farm commodity
support, expanded crop insurance coverage, consolidated conservation programs, reauthorized
and revised nutrition assistance, and extended authority to appropriate funds for many U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) discretionary programs through FY2018.
When the 2014 farm bill was enacted, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the
total cost of mandatory programs would be $489 billion over the five years FY2014-FY2018.
Four titles accounted for 99% ($483.8 billion) of anticipated farm bill mandatory program
outlays: nutrition, crop insurance, conservation, and farm commodity support. The nutrition title,
which includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), comprised 80% of the
total. The remaining 20% was mostly geared toward agricultural production across several other
CBO has updated its projections of government spending based on new information about the
economy and program participation. Outlays for FY2014 to FY2017 are completed, and updated
projections for FY2018 have generally reflected lower-than-expected farm commodity prices in
the near term and lower-than-expected participation in SNAP. The new five-year estimated cost
of the 2014 farm bill, as of April 2018, is now $455 billion for the four largest titles, compared
with $484 billion for those same four titles four years ago. This is $28 billion less than what was
projected at enactment.