"Federal farm support, food assistance, agricultural trade, marketing, and rural development policies are governed by a variety of separate laws. However, many of these laws periodically are evaluated, revised, and renewed through an omnibus, multi-year 'farm bill.' The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. [Public Law] 107-171) was the most recent omnibus farm bill, and many of its provisions expire in 2007, so reauthorization is expected to be addressed in the first session of the 110th Congress. The heart of every omnibus farm bill is farm income and commodity price support policy -- namely, the methods and levels of support that the federal government provides to agricultural producers. However, farm bills typically include titles on agricultural trade and foreign food aid, conservation and environment, forestry, domestic food assistance (primarily food stamps), agricultural credit, rural development, agricultural research and education, and marketing-related programs. Often, such 'miscellaneous' provisions as food safety, marketing orders, animal health and welfare, and energy are added. This omnibus nature of the farm bill creates a broad coalition of support among sometimes conflicting interests for policies that, individually, might not survive the legislative process. The scope and direction of a new farm bill may be shaped by such factors as financial conditions in the agricultural economy, competition among various interests, international trade obligations, and -- possibly most important -- a tight limit on federal funds."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33037
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