The 2018 Farm Bill: Also known as the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2) is estimated to spend about $860 billion over 10 years, increasing safety net programs for farmers and cutting the SNAP program as it does.
What is it? The farm bill is a multi-year law that governs an array of agricultural, food, nutrition, trade and energy programs and is renewed about every 5 years. Titles in the most recent farm bill included; farm commodity price and income supports, agricultural conservation, farm credit, trade, research, rural development, bioenergy, foreign food aid, and domestic nutrition assistance. It allows policymakers to periodically address agricultural and food issues.
The markup session for the bill that expires September 30th goes before the house this Wednesday, here’s some of the highlighted portions of what will be discussed Wednesday:
- SNAP: The Farm Bill traditionally accounts for 80% of food assistance programs throughout the US and Republican lawmakers are working hard to make changes that would enforce recipients to work at least 20 hours a week in order to qualify for assistance and allowing states 1 billion annually to institute work programs to make this possible, although it is worth pointing out that most recipients of SNAP do work already and 80% of SNAP recipients are seniors, disabled or already in the workforce. SNAP could be changed to bar recipients from purchasing things like soda with it, although there is so evident to show that SNAP recipients have a worse diet than people not receiving SNAP. There will also be a push to allow SNAP to be accepted at farmers markets.
- Subsidies: These multi-billion-dollar programs support farmers as federally subsidized crop insurance, are preserved with the vast majority of these subsidies going to the most widely planted crops: corn, cotton, peanuts, rice, soybeans, and wheat. The bill also maintains restrictions on sugar imports that prop up the price of domestically produced sugar. These subsidies have been heavily critiqued and there has been a call for an overhaul of the system.
- Environment: There is a new provision to eliminate a requirement that the Environmental Protection Agency consult with the other agencies, such as the Department of Interior, to determine whether a new pesticide could harm threatened or endangered species.
- Conservation: The Conservation Reserve Program acreage from 24 million acres to 29 million acres. At the same time, the bill proposes to fold the Conservation Stewardship Program into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, honoring existing contracts but not taking any more.
- Animal Medicine: The draft farm bill includes $150 million for fiscal year 2019 for a hoof and mouth disease vaccine bank, $70 million in block grants to the states for disease prevention and $30 million for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN).
“Drafting the farm bill challenges Congress to meet broad needs with limited resources. The new farm bill will be especially constrained by passage of the GOP tax plan, which sharply reduces taxes on the wealthy and large companies, and by concerns about the size of the federal budget deficit. Farm bill proponents will have to work even harder now than in the past to underscore the magnitude and impact of this legislation, and the ways in which it affects everyone living in the United States.” Tom Vilsack, former U.S. secretary of agriculture
The Farm Bill should promote nutrition, stimulate the economy, encourage young farmers and protect the environment. We’ll stay tuned to see if that’s at all possible as the weeks unfold the new 2018 Farm Bill.