Farm Bill 101: What you need to know about reauthorizing it and why it matters to you | Knowledge
The $428 billion Farming Improvement Act of 2018 (Pub. L. 115-334), or more commonly known as the Farm Bill of 2018, is set to expire on September 30, 2023, impacting virtually every sector of the industry agricultural. As such, the American farming community, food producers and processors, as well as state, local, tribal and federal authorities have turned their attention to the reauthorization of the Farm Bill.
What is the Farm Bill?
The Farm Bill is the single largest financial commitment the U.S. government makes to U.S. agricultural and food producers, providing nutritional assistance, crop subsidies, crop insurance, rural high-speed Internet deployment, and a range of other programs and initiatives. The Farm Bill is a multi-year omnibus law that allows policymakers to set priorities for the food and agriculture sector for a period, usually every five years.
The first Farm Bill was signed into law in 1933 in part to remedy the collapse of the commodity market caused by the Great Depression and to bring stability to American food and agricultural producers who suffered devastating losses as a result of the Dust Bowl. Historically, the Farm Bill prioritized supporting producers of basic commodities – corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, rice, peanuts, dairy and sugar. Beginning in 1973, the Farm Bill added a title on nutrition. Nutrition assistance is now the Farm Bill’s single largest expense, accounting for about three-quarters of spending. The current Farm Bill consists of 12 titles, described below:
- Title I: Goods – income support prices and disaster relief for major crops
- Title II: Conservation – environmental stewardship of agricultural land
- Title III: Trade – agricultural export, international food assistance programs
- Title IV: Food – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
- Title V: Credit – direct government loans, private loan guarantees
- Title VI: Rural development – rural business and community development programs
- Title VII: Research, Extension and Related Matters – agricultural research and extension programs
- Title VIII: Forestry – forest management programs operated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service
- Title IX: Energy – agricultural and community renewable energy systems
- Title X: Horticulture – supports specialty, organic and hemp crop production
- Title XI: Harvest Insurance – federal crop insurance provided by the USDA risk management agency
- Title XII: Miscellaneous – programs impacting livestock and poultry production, beginning farmers and ranchers
Four titles – nutrition (76%), crop insurance (9%), raw materials (7%) and conservation (7%) – account for 99% of all Farm Bill spending. While nutrition will no doubt be a big topic in the upcoming Farm Bill negotiations, the conservation headline is gaining visibility and prominence, reflecting the Biden administration’s focus on tackling climate change through improved agricultural practices, often referred to as “climate-smart agriculture”.
When does the Farm Bill reauthorization process begin?
To kick off the reauthorization process, Congress began seeking input from stakeholders to set its priorities for the next Farm Bill. The House and Senate Agriculture Committees must each draft, amend and vote on their own versions of the Farm Bill, which are then reconciled before being voted on in their final form. Once passed, the bill is sent to the President for signature, allowing the USDA to begin implementation.
Why is this important?
Essentially, the Farm Bill is a roadmap for public spending. Many provisions of the Farm Bill require Congress to intervene annually in the federal budget legislative process. But the priority-setting nature of the Farm Bill means it directs how federal dollars are spent each year, so stakeholders must engage with Congress to ensure their farm priorities are met. Bill are reflected.
Additionally, a key factor in determining what the final priorities are for the 2023 Farm Bill is that the Farm Bill reauthorization process takes place in an election year. With polls indicating the Democrats are in danger of losing control of the House and possibly the Senate, Republican lawmakers won’t be in a hurry to agree to the Farm Bill’s provisions if they’re confident they’ll hold the pen the year next when the Farm Bill is finalized. As such, stakeholders need to engage with Democratic and Republican farm leaders.
Holland & Knight’s Farm Bill blog series will provide insight into the contents of the package, new areas of focus at the federal level, and how to ensure your priorities are included in the final bill. For more information on the 2023 Farm Bill and the latest information on Farm Bill negotiations, please contact Kayla Gebeck Carroll and Peter Tabor.