US President Barack Obama [official profile] signed into law [press release] on Friday a $956 billion farm bill [text, PDF] providing expanded crop insurance and other benefits for the agricultural sector. The bill passed the Senate [New York Times report] last week with a bipartisan vote. Beyond expanding federal crop insurance, the farm bill also ends direct government payments for farmers regardless of whether they produce crops. The bulk of its nearly $100 billion per year cost is for the food stamp program, although it will cut food stamps by $8 billion over the next 10 years, which is considerably short of the Republican call for food stamp cuts of up to $40 billion. In addition to replacing some subsidies with increased crop insurance, the law also includes new food labeling regulations and soil conservation measures. "Despite its name, the farm bill is not just about helping farmers," Obama stated. "It [is] a jobs bill, an innovation bill, an infrastructure bill, a research bill, [and] a conservation bill."
Several cases regarding agriculture have reached the US Supreme Court [official website] in recent years. In June 2013, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously [JURIST report] that the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] had jurisdiction to review takings claims by a California raisin grower that faced fines after refusing to turn over their crops. The Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] in favor of Monsanto [corporate website; JURIST news archive] in a May 2013 opinion on a seed patent dispute. They ruled that a farmer who buys patented seeds may not reproduce them through planting and harvesting without the patent holder's permission. In December 2012, the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that the government does not receive automatic immunity under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment [text] in a case against the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission [official website].