New Year, New Senate Farm Bill: Here's What You Need to Know
The Senate Farm Bill is revised every five years (or so). It was put into place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Agricultural Adjustment Act in 1933. This bill is responsible for shaping agriculture and food, trade, rural economies, on-farm energy production and more.
The 2018 Farm Bill is especially crucial, as farm incomes are plunging, climate change is heightening, and the threat of natural disasters and trade wars are looming.
The highlight and main goals of the latest farm bill were created to serve as a pathway to self-sufficiency, along with economic mobility and well-being for families and individuals.
Keep reading to learn some must-know information about the Farm Bill and what changes it's set to bring about. When you have a better understanding of what was decided and changed by this bill, you can also understand how these changes may affect you, your family and your life.
Let's get started.
Funding for SNAP has Been Protected
The most notable change in the 2018 Farm Bill is that there's no real change at all. The bill avoids any type of cut to SNAP benefits.
When the House farm bill was first proposed, there were major slashes proposed to SNAP funding, which would have had devastating effects on nutrition and hunger. If the cuts were approved, millions of people would have been denied access to daily meals.
Since access to SNAP impacts if a child receives reduced-price or free lunches while at school, any type of cuts would have prevented hundreds of thousands of children (or more) from being able to get these meals.
It's Helping to Keep Things Fresh
The FFVP--Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program--provides funding to schools for purchasing healthy snacks and fresh produce. However, there was a proposal in the bill that wanted to change the program to allow for dry, frozen, canned and other forms of produce.
To prove how negative this change would have been, the USDA evaluated a pilot program using these non-fresh snacks. During this program, it was proven that without the fresh elements in place, consumption of vegetable and fruits dropped significantly.
Two New Programs to Help Make the Food System More Sustainable
In addition to several other positive policy changes brought about by the farm bill, it also created two new programs. These included:
- Support for the next generation of farmers
- Sustain and develop regional and local food systems
The availability of regional and local food hasn't yet caught up to the demand. In a response to this need, the farm bill is supporting the peer networks and infrastructure needed to help strengthen the regional and local food systems. Ultimately, this will help grow rural communities.
The next generation of farmers is facing a wide array of challenges. The average age of the American farmer today is 58. Also, fewer and fewer younger people are entering this field. One of the main culprits of this is the lack of access to affordable land.
The recently passed farm bill provides funding for farmer outreach and training, policies that address access to affordable farmland, along with incentives for farmers who are retiring to connect with new farmers. The bill is also making changes to several existing programs, making them more responsive to the needs of today's farmers.
Food Education for Children
The 2018 farm bill is maintaining and strengthening the Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program. It is doing this by including recommendations that the USDA scales the grants to help maximize the impact and to coordinate with several other agencies that run national service programs.
Another landmark change brought forth by the farm bill is the fact that it has legalized hemp production. Hemp is a form of cannabis, but it has a lower THC level than traditional marijuana.
It's estimated that by 2022, thanks to the legalization of hemp, the industry could grow to exceed $20 billion in net worth.
Remember, if you are going to begin cultivating hemp, having the right tools is essential. This will help ensure your success in this newly legalized industry.
Expanded Farm Subsidies
The farm bill is expanding some of the federal agricultural subsidies to first cousins, nephews, and nieces of farmers. This is the case even if the relatives don't work directly on the farm.
This was one of the provisions in the bill that was criticized by The Environmental Working Group. This organization stated that the provision was a "wasteful giveaway." However, the goal of this is to encourage more people to become involved with farming.
No Additional Impact on the Current Deficit
Reaching almost $1 trillion per year, the price tag of the farm bill is steep. However, the drafters of the bill used the baseline, which was set by the Congressional Budget Office under the existing spending caps of $867 billion for the next decade.
Put simply, this means that it isn't going to increase the federal deficit from any of the prior projections.
Understanding the Senate Farm Bill: Now You Know
The prior farm bill, which went into effect in 2014, expired on September 30th of 2018. The passing of a new farm bill has taken longer than many expected.
However, with the Senate farm bill now in place, the changes are better understood. If you are a farmer, or just concerned about this industry, then understanding the impact of the farm bill is beneficial.
If you are searching for additional information about farming in general, such as how to keep pests out of your garden, then check out some of our other posts. We are dedicated to the farming community and keeping people updated on what's going on in the industry.