What You Need To Know About The 2018 Farm Bill (At The Very Least)

Mar 1, 2018Blog, news

It’s been four years since the Agricultural Act of 2014 was signed into law by Former President Obama.

If you haven’t been following agriculture news recently, this means the four-year cycle is up and the Congress is voting on the new 2018 Farm Bill soon. Here’s what you need to know about the 2018 US Farm Bill:


What Is The Farm Bill?

The farm bill is an omnibus legislation passed by the United States Congress” renewed every four to six years that comprehensively establishes a federal farm, food, fiber, forestry, and rural policies and programs. These are run under the joint jurisdiction of the House Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Committees on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

The periodic nature of the legislation process helps make the bill’s agenda current and corrective. As a political practice, it helps set up vote trading and reduce intervention during implementation.

Historically, farm bills have focused on two main points:

  • Farm commodity program support for staple, non-perishable, and stock commodities (corn, grains, nuts, soy, etc.)
  • Federal nutrition programs like, currently, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

However, the farm bill adapts according to the needs of the country like conservation, research, rural development, and more.

The 2014 US Farm Bill was projected to cost $489 billion, 80% of which is dedicated to nutrition. The other 20% is allotted to Crop Insurance (8%), Conservation (6%), Commodities (5%), and the last 1% on ‘Others’.


What Does The USDA Say About This?

On January 24, 2018, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018. The document is a collection of a set of principles for the consideration of the Congress as they craft the 2018 Farm Bill and other agricultural legislation. Secretary Perdue claims to have come up with these in his travels “to 30 states, listening to the people of American agriculture about what is working and what is not.”

In these documents, the USDA shares wisdom on various agricultural needs and issues in:

  • Farm Production & Conservation
  • Trade & Foreign Agricultural Affairs
  • Food, Nutrition & Customer Services
  • Marketing & Regulatory Programs
  • Food Safety & Inspection Services
  • Research, Education & Economics
  • Rural Development
  • Natural Resources & Environment
  • Management

(Get an in-depth look here.)

What To Expect?

With President Donald J. Trump pushing for reductions in regulation, one would wonder what’s to come for the 2018 Farm Bill — especially with the Republican Party having a majority on both legislative houses.

Budget For The 2018 Farm Bill Will Be Reduced

On May 23, 2017, the Trump administration details the changes they want to make to the federal budget in their 2018 budget proposal. In there, the Agriculture Department was cut by 21% compared to last year’s budget. It’s likely that this cut will be sustained throughout President Trump’s term.

Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director of congressional relations with American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), said that “one of the biggest issues we’re going to face in the next farm bill is we’re going to have less money to write the farm bill than we had when we wrote the 2014”.

(See more: AFBF’s Farm Bill Resources In Depth)

Budget For Snap Will Be Reduced

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a program included in the nutrition title which holds 80% of the 2014 Farm Bill’s budget. SNAP provides food-purchasing assistance for low- or no-income US citizens, administered by the USDA. SNAP accounts for 95% of all spending in the programs under nutrition.

With our legislators declaring their intent to cut as much as possible from the federal budget due to tax cuts, SNAP is sure to receive some heavy scrutiny. This goes hand in hand with both house’s reluctance to maintain programs they deem ‘socialistic’.

Conservation Will Not Be A Priority

One of the slices in the farm bill is conservation. Conservation is a portion of the farm bill that aims to supply critical tools, training, and financial support to help farmers and ranchers protect and improve their land’s natural resources. This goes hand in hand with sustainable farming programs as an effort to reduce resource depletion and fight global warming. Conservation is currently at 6% allotment in the current budget, dwarfed by Nutrition at 80%. While environmentalists would like to push an expansion in conservation programs in the farm bill, it’s unlikely to be a priority in both funding and legislation — considering President Trump even called global warming a “hoax”. Since budget cut is the name of the game, it’s more likely that other parts of the program would receive the attention or its funding might even be reduced.

Shift To Business Sustainability

Under the Trump administration, Rabobank predicts the farm bill will shift away from conservation to focus more on business sustainability.

“Increasing the budget for the Conservation Reserve Program is expected to become a key issue, along with an adjustment to the revenue support programs, including crop insurance,” the report says.

This shift makes sense since we are likely to see an increase in pro-business libertarian policies with our current set of legislators.

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