With the Agricultural Act of 2014 set to expire in 2018, Congress will soon begin to negotiate and draft the next iteration of the farm bill, the massive piece of legislation that authorizes federal funding for all farm support and food programs.

In a new policy short, R Street Policy Analyst Caroline Kitchens examines reform legislation that already has been considered in recent congressional sessions and other ideas that have been floated around Capitol Hill.

“Last time the farm bill was drafted, net farm income was at a record-high level, whereas now it has been significantly reduced,” notes Kitchens. “There is widespread political sentiment that Washington insiders are not doing enough to help Americans who are struggling in rural communities across the country. And this sentiment is sometimes too easily conflated with the need for more farm subsidies.”

Subsidy-reform proposals—which include means-testing, payment limits, transparency requirements and prohibiting subsidies for the harvest price option—all are likely to be vigorously opposed by agriculture industry insiders and special-interest groups. But from taxpayers’ perspective, any one of these legislative options would be better than the status quo. For this reason, Kitchens argues, they should all be duly considered.

“While committee leadership has made no apparent effort to solicit stakeholder input beyond the agriculture lobby, the farm bill is a crucial piece of legislation that affects us all—as consumers, taxpayers and as environmental stewards,” writes Kitchens. “A responsible farm bill will enact meaningful reforms that take all of these voices into account. Policymakers and legislators are in a unique position to craft legislation that finally does just that.”

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