Recently, the Senate passed a bill that sets farm policy. The main components of the Senate's five-year farm and food bill are as follows:
—The bill spends nearly $500 billion over its five-year life, or nearly $969 billion over 10 years. About 80 percent of the spending goes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. The bill would cut $23 billion from current spending levels.
—The bill ends direct payments made to farmers regardless of whether they plant a crop. That program currently costs $5 billion a year. It also terminates three other subsidy programs, including one based on price targets. It replaces the four programs with a revenue-based subsidy program that helps farmers suffering moderate losses before crop insurance kicks in.
—It ends commodity subsidies to farmers with adjusted gross incomes of more than $750,000 and ensures that those receiving subsidies are actively involved in farming operations.
—It consolidates 23 conservation programs into 13, at projected savings of $6 billion over 10 years.
—It saves about $4 billion over 10 years from the food stamp program, which now provides benefits for 46 million people and costs about $80 billion a year. Most of that comes from stopping a practice whereby some states pay low-income people as little as $1 a year in heat assistance, even if they don't have heating bills, so as to increase their food stamp benefits. The bill also stops lottery winners and college students receiving assistance from their families from getting food stamps, and cracks down on benefit trafficking.
The Congressional Budget Office, in calculating the costs of legislation, usually makes projections over a 10-year period and those are the figures that lawmakers often refer to in stating how much their bills will cost or save.