The main farmer part of the farm bill is explained by levels of compromise.
The farm bill was invented to manage markets, prices and supplies. Free markets chronically fail for agriculture, from decades before the 1930s, to today, and projected ahead ten years. An ideal farm bill features “living wage” price floor programs with no need for subsidies.
Compromises show up first in the lowering (1953-1995) and then elimination (1996-2018) of price floors. Subsidies also show up, and sometimes increase, but with lower net results for farmers.
The better subsidies are “countercyclical,” like Price Loss Coverage (PLC), where you get more when you need more. Unfortunately, the subsidy triggers, below which you get a fractional subsidy, like $8.40 for soybeans, were not adjusted for inflation in the 2014 bill, or the 2018 House and Senate bills. So $8.40 when the original decision was made, maybe in 2013, is only worth $7.76 today, and could fall to the six dollar range by 2024. Meanwhile, Congress gave rice and peanut subsidy triggers at 117 percent and 116 percent of 2015 full costs, but only 85 percent to soybeans and 92 percent to corn.
Tragically, on the basis of higher 2014 prices, more than 90 percent of corn and soybean farmers gambled instead on Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) where, if prices go low and stay low, as they have, you get very little subsidy.
Congress has stacked the deck against farmers. Again.