U.S. President Barack Obama on February 7 signed the 2014 farm bill into law during a visit to Michigan State University. The bipartisan legislation seeks to end direct subsidies to farmers and cut food stamps, while expanding government-backed crop insurance plans.
The five-year farm bill, named the Agricultural Act of 2014, passed the House on January 29 by a 251-166 vote and the Senate on February 4 by a 68-32 vote. The Agricultural Act of 2014 replaces the most recent version of the farm bill, an extension of the 2008 farm bill that expired in 2013.
Touting the versatility of the farm bill, the president compared the bill's diverse functions to a Swiss Army knife.
"It helps rural communities grow. It gives farmers some certainty. It puts in place important reforms," said Obama.
Now that the Agricultural Act of 2014 has been signed into law, it will be swiftly put into action, said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
"We are going to be focusing as much of our time and resources as we possibly can in implementing all of the various provisions of the farm bill as quickly, as efficiently, as correctly as possible," stated Vilsack.
Lawmakers had been hashing out different versions of the farm bill throughout much of 2013. The U.S. Senate passed its first version of the farm bill on June 10, while the House passed a different version of the bill on July 11. The bill then moved to a bipartisan conference committee consisting of members from both houses, which began formulating a compromise bill in October.
The King amendment, which was included in the House's first version of the farm bill, did not make it into the final version of the bill. Named after author Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, the amendment would have had the potential to nullify more than 150 state laws affecting agriculture, including California's Proposition 2, which aims at ending the use of battery cages for laying hens.
Despite the exclusion of the King amendment, King did vote for the final version of the farm bill.