We’ve detected that you are using an outdated browser.

Please use a new browser like Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Microsoft Edge to improve your experience.

We’ve detected that you are using an outdated browser.


The Non-Wonk Guide to Understanding Federal Commodity Payments

As recent farm bills shift more toward conservation spending and other programs, the historically rooted and highly funded commodity programs receive an increasing amount of criticism. Since 1933, when they were introduced in the first farm bill, commodity programs have worked to stabilize the market and provide farmers with fair prices. Their function has not changed over the years. The government generally has used three different mechanisms for supporting farmers through commodity programs: control supply, fix prices, or pay the difference between market and a fair price. The mechanism of support has drifted more toward the government paying the difference. The formulas to determine a farmer’s payments and the payment limitations show that the government is required to increase its spending in order to continue adequately supporting farmers. The price for commodities has fallen below the cost of production, and farmers have come to rely on the government’s support. As commodity programs are re-evaluated, the whole system around these programs also needs to be considered.

Scott Marlow
Pittsboro, NC: Rural Advancement Foundation International - USA
Page Numbers
Publication Date
January 01, 2005
Publication Type
Reports and Guides
Farm Bill

Visit American Farmland Trust

Get engaged and receive the information you need right in your inbox.