The Farm Bill Explained and Why It Significantly Matters
The 2014 Farm Bill expires at the end of the September. With our current administration in The White House, it’s more important than ever for you to pay attention, and make your voice heard. This post answers the question, what is The Farm Bill and why should I care? Here’s why in simple English.
The Farm Bill impacts farmers livelihoods, how food grows, what plants are grown and also covers programs ranging from crop insurance for farmers to healthy food access for low-income families, to educating farmers on sustainable farming practices.
In short, The Farm Bill is the blueprint for our food and farming systems for the next five years and a major part of government spending, more than $489 million dollars between 2014 and 2018.
History Behind The Farm Bill
The Farm Bill was born out of the (not so) Great Depression and Dust Bowl, brought into being by Franklin Delanor Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation. Among people who genuinely care, its original goals still stand today – to keep food prices fair for farmers and consumers, to make sure there’s enough food to go around and to protect and sustain the land, our country’s greatest resource.
What’s The Process?
The Farm Bill is a complex piece of legislation built from a wide range of input. Members of Congress hold listening sessions to take the temperature of the country and what’s important to the people. Then both the House and the Senate Agriculture Committees draft individual bills, and they can be very different.
After drafts are complete, they go to the full Senate or House and get debated, amended, and voted upon by its prospective group.
Once each group has passed their version of the bill, which can take time, a lot of back and forth and several headaches, both House and Senate bills get presented to the Conference Committee, a team chosen mostly from both agriculture committees. They are charged with combining the two bills into one big package of compromise. Once they agree, it gets sent to “The Floor” or full Congress for debate and ultimate passing.
Once the bill passes Congress, it moves along to the president to either be signed into law or vetoed and sent back to Congress for edits. This is our political process.
Proposed Changes to the Farm Bill in 2018
The most significant change introduced in 2018 is the requirement for SNAP recipients to either work or enroll in 20 hours a week of workforce training. According to AGAmerica, this change would affect between 5 – 7 million people. Read more about it, here.
The new bill also includes The Stress Act addressing the mental health issues cropping up these days among farmers and ranchers, due to today’s dismal farm economy.
2018 also offers removal of income limits for certain farm subsidies depending on the business.
But let’s talk about hemp. The Hemp Farming Act, proposed by Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, could fully legalize industrial hemp and all products made from it including CBD oil. Under the new law, the DEA and other federal government agencies no longer have jurisdiction over the plant. Hemp will officially no longer be on the DEA’s list of controlled substances. State agriculture departments will be as free to regulate hemp as they are corn and soy, etc.
This is where the process mentioned above becomes important. While the Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill advocates for full legalization, The House’s version barely mentions hemp.
The good news is, the Senate passed their version of The Farm Bill with McConnell’s hemp legislation intact. Now we must do everything in our power to support the final version of the Farm Bill in including this piece.
We encourage you to contact your representatives and let them know your thoughts. You can contact them directly or fill out the form at U.S. Hemp Roundtable.
What Does The 2018 Farm Bill Cover?
The farm bill’s sections are called titles. They regulate everything from food safety and organic food production to crop subsidies and food assistance. The 2014 Farm Bill has twelve. Title 7 is the one that gives industrial hemp its freedom to grow in the US, and all the titles are important, as we cannot live without food.
Title 1 – Commodities
Covers price and income support for the farmers that raise heavily traded crops including corn, soybeans, peanuts wheat, and rice – dairy and sugar and disaster relief.
Title 2 – Conservation
Encourages environmental stewardship of farmlands and improved management through land retirement and working land programs.
Title 3 – Trade
Title 3 focuses on international food aid and agricultural exports. The reforms of the 2014 Farm Bill dealt with improving food aid quality, complying with WTO trade issues, and avoiding disruptions in small foreign markets.
Title 4 – Nutrition
The nutrition title offers nutritional assistance for low-income households through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The title includes eight additional nutrition programs you can find here.
Title 5 – Credit
Supports federal direct and guaranteed loans to farmers and ranchers, to help them maintain and grow their farming operations.
Title 6 – Rural Development
This title focuses on fostering rural economy and development. It supports business and community programs and coordinates activities with local, state, and federal programs.
Title 7 – Research, Extension, and Related Matters
Supporting education, research, and programs designed to foster innovation, this is the section that provides for the legal growing and experimenting with Industrial Hemp. The distinction? Industrial hemp has less than 3% THC based on dry weight.
Title 8 – Forestry
This section supports forestry management programs run by USDA’s Forest Service.
Title 9 – Energy
Covers programs that encourage growing crops for biofuel, as well as help farmers, ranchers, and business owners, install renewable energy systems; including grants and loan guarantees. Also supports energy-related research.
Title 10 – Specialty Crops & Horticulture
Through a wide range of initiatives, this title supports the production of specialty crops—fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, floriculture, and ornamental products. This title also covers farmers market and local food programs, funding for research specific to this area.
Title 11 – Crop Insurance
From USDA Risk Management: The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) promotes the economic stability of agriculture through a sound system of crop insurance. It provides the means for the research helpful in devising and establishing such coverage. Management is vested in a Board of Directors, subject to the general supervision of the Secretary of Agriculture.
Title 12 – Miscellaneous
These programs and classifications don’t fit into the previous titles. This title, broken into different sections, covers livestock; country of origin labeling, the socially disadvantaged and limited-resource producers; other; oil-heat efficiency, research and jobs training. The complete list is available here.
The Farm Bill is crucial for so many reasons, hemp only being a small portion of the overall proposed law. That’s why making your voice heard about hemp and its value, is so vital. Now is the time to speak up. Let’s get the Feds out of our medicine. Here’s the link again to make your voice heard. We all thank you.