The farm bill is an omnibus, multi-year piece of authorizing legislation that governs an array of agricultural and food programs. Although agricultural policies sometimes are created and changed by freestanding legislation or as part of other major laws, the farm bill provides a predictable opportunity for policymakers to comprehensively and periodically address agricultural and food issues. The farm bill is renewed about every five years.

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246, “2008 farm bill”) is the most recent omnibus farm bill, and was enacted into law in June 2008. The farm bill is due for reauthorization, as portions of the 2008 farm bill expired beginning September 30, 2012. Some programs expire at the end of a farm bill and would cease to operate altogether unless reauthorized; in other cases new activities might not be initiated—either for lack of program authority or available funding.

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