"Federal farm support, nutrition, agricultural trade and food aid, conservation, credit, marketing, rural development, agricultural research, and related policies are governed by a variety of separate laws. Although these laws may be considered and as free-standing legislation, many of them are evaluated periodically, revised, and renewed through an omnibus, multi-year farm bill. The Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform (FAIR) Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-127) was the last omnibus farm bill, and many of its provisions were due to expire in 2002. […] The final version continues marketing loans and fixed payments, and creates new counter-cyclical assistance tied to target prices (similar in some ways to a guaranteed per-bushel pricing system eliminated in 1996) for grains, cotton, and oilseeds, with continued planting flexibility and no supply controls. The bill extends, with modifications, dairy and sugar support (the bill creates new counter-cyclical payments for dairy), and it overhauls the peanut program by replacing quotas with a support program like that for other major crops. The final bill also contains titles to expand conservation program funding; reauthorize agricultural export and food aid programs; and amend and extend research, nutrition (food stamps), credit, and rural development activities, among others."
CRS Report for Congress, RL31195
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