New Farm Bill Gives Farmers, Ranchers Certainty (Matt King Commentary)

by Matt King  on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019 9:37 am   3 min read

Farm Bureau President Randy Veach, U.S. Sen. John Boozman, Farm Bureau Board Member Terry Dabbs and Matt King, Farm Bureau director of public affairs and government relations, stand onstage before the signing ceremony of the 2018 Farm Bill in Washington, D.C. (Farm Bureau)

The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill was welcome news to Arkansas' farmers and ranchers, who face myriad challenges in trade, regulatory and monetary policy — issues beyond their control, but that threaten their profitability and, ultimately, their livelihoods.  

This is evident in the 50 percent decline in net farm income over the last five years. Having a new Farm Bill in place gives our farmer and ranchers certainty they will have the financial security necessary to continue working to provide the food, fiber and shelter American consumers expect and demand.  

The overall cost of the 2018 Farm Bill, which was signed into law by President Trump last month, is projected to be $867 billion, down almost $100 billion from the $956 billion forecast for the 2014 Farm Bill.

While we call it a "Farm Bill," close to 80 percent of the 2018 Agriculture and Nutrition Act (the legislation's full name) is spent on nutrition programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The remaining 20 percent is used to support agricultural commodities, promote conservation programs, protect farmers through a robust crop insurance program, and invest in trade promotion and various other programs.  

A summary of all programs is listed below.  

General

  • Live fish are considered livestock, which will make it easier for fish farmers in terms of shipping and transporting their products. 
  • A proposal by Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., to eliminate DUNS number requirement for farm program participation was included in the bill. Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) provides a D-U-N-S number, a unique nine-digit identification number, for each physical location of a business. Obtaining these numbers was a challenging and complicated process for farmers. 

Commodity Title

  • Agriculture producers will have the option to change Price Loss Coverage (PLC) or Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) election, and beginning in 2021 this will become an annual election. These coverages are essential for the economic wellbeing and security of farmers and continuing them and allowing leeway to change coverages is an important step to simplifying the process for farmers. 
  • Dairy producers in Arkansas will have access to additional insurance programs under the new farm bill designed to help slow the loss of dairies in Arkansas and across the United States.
  • The bill maintains the payment rate in the Economic Adjustment Assistance Program (EAAP), which will help ensure textile mills remain in the United States.

Conservation Title

  • The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) remain as stand-alone programs to encourage producers implement additional environmental projects on their land to ensure sustainability for the future.
  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres will increase from 24 million acres to 27 million acres allowing for farmers to remove additional environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality.
  • The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) now has mandatory funding of $300 million per year. This program helps farmers reduce runoff of excess nutrients and erosion as well as improving irrigation efficiency in order to improve habitat for fish and wildlife.  

Nutrition Title 

  • The Farm Bill features a nutrition title that aligns with the food stamp provisions in the Senate bill, and does not include additional work requirements.

Trade Title

  • The bill maintains more than $250 million to promote U.S. agriculture products overseas. These programs are used to promote commodities like beef, rice, poultry, fruits and vegetables, and many more. Arkansas farmers participate in many of these programs through investment of their checkoff dollars. 
  • A measure by Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., to allow promotion of U.S. agriculture products in Cuba was included in the final bill.

Forestry Title

  • The Good Neighborhood Authority (GNA) was extended to states, counties and tribes. GNA will allow more timber harvest from the National Forest, and provide additional revenue at the local level.

Other Programs

  • Legalization of industrial hemp.
  • New programs for urban farming, including a new office at USDA.
  • $75 million for feral hog management.

Matt King is director of public affairs and government relations for the Arkansas Farm Bureau.

 

 

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