On September 30, the 2014 Farm Bill expired, with neither a new Farm Bill nor an extension of the existing legislation in place. In this situation, USDA programs do not revert to “permanent law” (an early version of the Farm Bill from the 1940s) until January 1, 2019; thus some lawmakers consider completion of the Farm Bill before the end of the current session of Congress less urgent than some other matters. However, failure to act is already hurting farmers, rural communities, and food-insecure families across America.
Contact your Congressional Representative and your Senators this week and let them know that farmers, rural communities, and all Americans need Congress to pass a sound 2018 Farm Bill before the end of this year. The new bill must be modeled on the bipartisan Senate Farm Bill, and must include its provisions for:
- The Local Agriculture Markets Program (LAMP)
- The Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) program
- Expanded funding for the Organic Research Extension Initiative (OREI)
- Continued funding for organic certification cost-share
- Full funding for an improved Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
- Strengthened “actively engaged in farming” requirements for commodity subsidies
While it is true that the Farm Bill Conference will not attempt to complete the 2018 Farm Bill until after the election, now is the time to reiterate our message regarding the Farm Bill, to keep this issue front and center for Members of Congress – and in the press as well! Letters to newspaper editors, op-eds, radio interviews and other public media communications will all help to push Congress to deliver the Farm Bill we need before the end of the year.
Farm Bill details
What does the Farm Bill expiration mean? Commodity and crop insurance subsidies and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) will continue at current funding levels through the end of the calendar year. However, as of October 1 of this year, funding for most NRCS conservation programs is suspended, and all smaller Farm Bill programs (less than $50 million per year) have lost their authorization and have been effectively discontinued for 2019. While existing contracts and grant-funded projects can be completed, no new contracts or requests for application will be issued. Programs affected include:
- Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI)
- Organic Production and Market Data Initiative (ODI)
- National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP)
- Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP)
- Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers (Section 2501)
- Value Added Producers Grants (VAPG)
- Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program (FMLFPP)
- Food Insecurity Nutrition Initiative (FINI)
- Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP)
- Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
- Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and CRP Transitions Incentives Program
- Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
Note that the Senate Farm Bill would protect several of these programs from similar vulnerability in future Farm Bill cycles. The LAMP combines VAPG, FMLFPP, and cost share for food safety training and infrastructure into a larger program with permanent baseline funding (will not be suspended if a future Farm bill is delayed). Similar, the FOTO integrates BFRDP and Section 2501 with permanent funding. Finally, the Senate bill gives OREI permanent funding, and both Senate and House bills do so for FINI.
Finally, the Conservation title of the Senate Farm Bill maintains balanced funding (within the constraints of a tight budget) for the CSP, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the CRP, and the ACEP. In particular the Senate bill strengthens CSP while the House Bill effectively abolishes it.
For more information, see the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) blog at http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/, especially the following recent posts:
- Life Without a Farm Bill: Expiration Day Arrives (Oct 1) – overview of the situation.
- Down to the Wire for Farm Bill Extension (Sept 25) – more on expiration impacts on conservation programs.
- Farm Bill Myth Busting: the Conservation Stewardship Program (Oct 10) – refutes CSP myths and provides vital information to help you advocate effectively for this program.
- What’s at Stake: Tiny but Mighty Farm Bill Programs (Sept 4) – these are the highly effective OREI, FMLFPP, VAPG, BFRDP, Section 2501, FINI, and other small-budgetl programs in the list above.