The U.S. House and Senate recently approved the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (H.R. 2). The President has indicated he will sign the bill, which is projected to cost $867 billion over ten years. The legislative text and the Statement of Mangers are available here.
The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives has outlined the highlights from this bill:
- Reforms and reauthorizes farm and nutrition assistance programs for five years within a budget-neutral framework.
- Strengthens the farm safety net.
- Allows farmers the option of updating of yields if the national yields for their crops were higher from 2013 to 2017.
- Maintains and strengthens Price Loss Coverage, Agriculture Risk Coverage, Commodity Loans, Dairy Margin Coverage, Livestock Disaster Programs, and Crop Insurance.
- Improves incentive-based conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), continues the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and increases Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage to 27 million.
- Strengthens promotion of U.S. agricultural exports through the Market Access Program (MAP) and other trade initiatives.
- Establishes permanent mandatory funding for agricultural export promotion activities and authorizes the use of funds to carry out MAP and Foreign Market Development in Cuba.
- Reduces the threat of catastrophic wildfires by renewing a key categorical exclusion and expanding its purpose to allow for expedited reduction of hazardous fuels in our forests.
- Helps rural communities combat the opioid crisis.
- Improves broadband delivery.
- Re-establishes the position of undersecretary for rural development, which the Trump administration eliminated.
- Funds key animal disease prevention and management initiatives, including the stockpiling of foot‐and‐mouth disease vaccine.
- Removes hemp from the controlled substances list of classified drugs. Hemp will not be eligible for Title I commodity programs, but it will be eligible for crop insurance.
- Strengthens the Buy American provisions of the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs.
- Combines the Value-Added Producer Grant Program with the Agricultural Market Service’s local foods programs to provide permanent funding for both programs. Conference managers have directed USDA to treat co-ops as a priority group in their scoring of applications.
- Includes strong funding for specialty crops.
- Reauthorizes the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, which provides training and education for individuals or entities that assist individuals engaged in farming, ranching and other agricultural related occupations.
Have questions about how this new legislation may impact your farming operation? Start here.