By Stephanie Mercier
The U.S. government has been enacting farm bills to provide financial support to farmers since the passage of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, in the throes of the Great Depression. There have been 17 farm bills passed since that time, with the current legislation, the Agricultural Act of 2014, scheduled to expire on October 1, 2018. The House and Senate Agriculture Committees have been at work since the spring of 2017, holding hearings to examine the impacts of shifting market conditions on the performance of U.S. farm bill programs, not just commodity and crop insurance programs but also a broad range of policies covering issues such as nutrition, agricultural trade, conservation, research and extension, forestry, farm credit, horticultural and organic agriculture, renewable energy, and rural economic development. Many of these policy areas have been added to farm bills in the last few decades.