(Updated 12/11/18): After the House and Senate each passed their own versions of the Farm Bill, this legislation was amended by the Senate to contain the bipartisan, bicameral conference committee's version of the bill. In its current form, this bill — the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 — would reauthorize numerous U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) programs through the 2023 crop year, reform the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), in addition to making it easier for farmers and ranchers to access credit, crop insurance, and international markets. Detailed summaries of the 807 page conference report’s various sections can be found below.
This section would aim to maintain and strengthen the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) programs and allow participating farmers to make a new election between them. The programs provide farmers with protection against adverse changes in market conditions, and would be reauthorized through 2023. Payments under ARC would be based on the physical location of the farm.
Dairy policy would be maintained and strengthened through several provisions. The Margin Protection Program would be renamed the Dairy Risk Coverage program. Premiums under the program would vary, as dairy operations with a production history of less than 2 million pounds and between 2 & 10 million pounds would receive discounts.
The USDA’s marketing loan program, which helps farmers store their production so they can market their crops throughout the year rather than selling when commodity prices are low at harvest-time, would be reauthorized for the 2019 through 2023 crop years.
This section would maintain and reform nutrition assistance programs. It would require that work capable adults (ages 18-59) work or participate in work training for 20 hours per week to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Exempted groups would include seniors, the disabled, those caring for children under six, and those who are pregnant. No individual would lose SNAP benefits unless they decline to work or accept free training to learn a skill.
It would also reform SNAP’s work requirement by directing states to consult with the state workforce development board or local employers to design the state’s employment and training program to meet local needs. States which include job search as a component of their program would be required to have at least one additional employment and training component.
State workforce agencies and the Secretary of Agriculture would be authorized to certify workforce partnerships operated by a private employer or nonprofit organization, which would serve as an additional means for individuals to satisfy employment and training requirements. Workforce partnerships wouldn’t receive funding under the Food and Nutrition Act. A process would be established for referral or reassessment of individuals determined to be ill-suited to the employment and training component to which they’d been referred.
Farmers’ markets and direct marketing farmers would be allowed to operate a point of sale EBT device at more than one location under the same SNAP retailer authorization, enabling them to expand access to their produce. The USDA would be required to review state EBT contract service agreements and the compatibility of those systems with USDA fraud monitoring systems.
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which provides annual rent payments for 10-15 year periods to farmers in exchange for not planting on environmentally-sensitive land, would be reauthorized through 2023. CRP acreage would be increased from 25 million acres to 27 million acres over the life of the Farm Bill.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which provides financial assistance to farms for adopting conservation measures, would be reauthorized through 2023.
In-kind food aid would be retained as the foundation of U.S. food aid while oversight, monitoring, and program evaluation for food aid programs would be strengthened. Labeling requirements would appropriately convey the generosity of the American people. Among the programs maintained by the section are: Food for Peace, Food for Progress, McGovern-Dole, Farmer-to-Farmer, Local and Regional Procurement, the Cochran Fellowship Program, the Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, and the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust.
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Accounts Pilot Program would be maintained with matching funds for savings accounts, and reserves a portion of ownership and operating loans for beginning farmers and ranchers. Military and related experience would be allowed to count toward 3-years of experience required prior to an application for an ownership loan.
The Conservation Loan and Loan Guarantee program would be maintained to help farmers and ranchers implement conservation measures on their land. Loan limits for individual farmers and ranchers would be updated for the first time in 16 years, enabling producers to access the credit they need to produce their crops.
USDA programs aimed at expanding access to broadband in rural areas would be reauthorized with $150 million annually through 2023.
USDA loan programs related to electrification or telephone service in rural areas would be reauthorized through 2023.
This section would provide full funding for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and eliminate mandatory funding for citrus research. It’d increase funding for the Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative to provide resources for combating fraudulent imports of organic products coming into the U.S. The farm bill would promote research on the development of mechanization and automation of labor-intensive tasks on farms and in packing facilities.
A grant program would be established for each 1890 land grant university to award scholarships to individuals pursuing a career in food and agricultural sciences.
The Forest Service’s authority to dispose of small parcels of land (40 acres or less) in a manner to enhance the respective National Forest through new recreational access or acquisitions. Funds obtained through such sales could be used for the acquisition of land or interest in the state from which the sale originated.
The Forest Service would be allowed to conduct research and provide technical assistance and grants to facilitate the use of innovative wood products.
States would be allowed to regulate industrial hemp production based on a state or tribal plan that includes information on hemp production locations, THC concentration tests, disposal of out of compliance plants, and negligence or other violations. The USDA & Dept. of Justice would establish a plan to monitor and regulate hemp production in states without USDA approved plans.
The USDA would be required to issue regulations to limit the type of foreign operations that are excluded from organic certification
The Local Agriculture Market Program would support partnerships to plan and develop a local or regional food system through $60 million in annual grants.
A new National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program would be designed to protect the health of the nation’s livestock sector.
- The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Grant Program and the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Rancher and Veteran Farmer and Rancher Program would all be merged into the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program and funded with $50 million annually.
A new U.S.-only vaccine bank would be established with priority for stockpiling Foot-and-Mouth Disease vaccine.