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2019 Farm Bill: How Will It Affect YOU and YOUR FARMING OPERATION?

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Farm Bill Update 2019

The New Farm Bill, to the tune of $867 Billion, does these things:

  • The term “family operation” now “includes first cousins, nieces and nephews as “actively engaged,” that is, eligible for federal subsidies, even if they do not work directly on the farm
    • Payments are capped at $125K per year per individual and $250K per year per couple.
    • Producers earning more than $900K annually in adjusted gross income from eligible crops (AGI) cannot get payments (same as current AGI cap)
    • Michelle Mellendorf explains what this means:

There are 2 types of operations, family-owned or non-family owned. If an operation/partnership is family owned, then there is no cap on the number of persons that can be determined to be “actively engaged” based on their contribution of management. In a non-family owned partnership, only 1 person can contribute management as their contribution for being “Actively engaged” Under the old rules, family-owned did not include first cousins, nieces and nephews. So Tim and Steve Niemeyer – cousins working together were subject to different rules. Under the new rules, they are now under the more relaxed standards. Non-family owned partnerships are required to have increased documentation also.

All members have to meet qualifications of “actively engaged” to be eligible for federal subsidies – they may not have to be on farm, but they certainly have to be actively involved.

  • Legalizes hemp production; removes banking, water rights and crop insurance barriers to growing hemp. It has nothing to do with medicinal or recreational uses of marijuana
  • Provides permanent funding for farmers markets and local food programs, including:
    • Promotional funds for local farmers markets
    • Research funds for organic farming
    • Money for organizations working to train the next generation of farmers
  • Provides permanent funding for veteran and minority farmers
  • No cuts to food stamps
    • There are SNAP revisions but they won’t restrict families’ food stamp benefits
    • Does not bind the White House from cutting food stamps without approval from Congress
  • Does not increase the federal deficit from prior projections
  • Allows farmers to adjust their yields under both the ARC and PLC payment programs (this will especially be of benefit to wheat producers)
    • Allows producers to enroll in either ARC or PLC for 2019 through 2020 and they can re-enroll in 2021-2023 rather than their choice sticking for the life of the Farm Bill (until 2023), changing each year if they want
    • Crop prices guaranteed in non-recourse marketing loans are raised
  • Federal crop insurance program was mostly untouched, except for RMA being instructed to develop policy protections for growers of fruits, vegetables, barley and hops
    • Increases access for veterans, beginning farmers and fruit/vegetables growers
    • More than doubles disaster assistance coverage for crops not eligible for insurance
  • Dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP), now renamed Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC), had insurance costs lowered for smaller producers (to allow purchase of more insurance that pays the difference between feed costs and milk prices)
    • Other risk management programs, previously open only to cattle and swine producers, are now open to dairy
  • $300M in mandatory spending for animal disease programs
  • CRP is capped at 27 million acres, (adds 3M acres to current level)
    • 2M acres reserved for grasslands
    • Rental rates paid to farmers adjusted to 90% of county rate for continuous sign-ups and 85% for general sign-ups
    • Greater flexibility for haying and grazing on CRP acres
  • CSP has $800M less to spend
    • Any grasslands not planted to row crops since 2009 and ineligible for program payments could be enrolled in CSP at $28/acre rate if the land stays undeveloped
  • EQIP remains and got most of the money cut from CSP
    • Will be funded at $2.025B by 2023
  • Energy: Funding for the energy title was significantly reduced
    • Bio-based Markets Program gets $3M / year
    • Biorefinery Assistance Program gets $50M in 2019 but only $25M in 2020
    • Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels gets $7M for development of alternative feedstocks for advanced biofuels (biodiesel, renewable diesel and cellulosic ethanol)
  • REAP continues to get $50M a year
  • ATPF (USDA’s export promotion called Ag Trade Promotion & Facilitation) gets $255M over the next five years. Of that amount:
    • MAP (Market Access Program) got $200M annually
    • FMD (Foreign Market Development) gets at least $34.5M
    • EMP (Emerging Markets Program) no more than $8M
    • TASC (Technical Assistance for Specialty Crop), gets $9M
    • PTF (Priority Trade Fund) was created and gets $3.5M each year
    • USDA can reallocate funding among the four programs. Funds not obligated after one year go to PTF
  • Ag research is authorized at $185M in public-private research spending the FFAR (Foundation for Food & Ag Research); expected to generate $4B in returns to the ag economy
  • Mental health assistance is included for the first time with the creation of the Farm & Ranch Stress Assistance Network to support mental health professionals in rural communities. $10M a year could be spent to reduce suicide rates in ag communities
  • Funding for rural high-speed internet goes up from $25M to $350M a year
  • The Secretary must appoint a new Undersecretary for Rural Development (Perdue eliminated this position)
  • Establishes Office of Urban Ag & Innovative Production and a USDA Director of Urban Ag
  • $5B is authorized over the 5 years of the bill to help USDA enforce standards against fraudulent organic imports
  • Organic Ag Research & Extension Initiative reauthorized at $50M a year by 2023.
  • $75M in mandatory funding to eradicate feral swine (estimates of $2B annual damage by wild hogs)

Written By

Shari Rogge-Fidler

Shari Rogge-Fidler

CEO, Family Farms, LLC

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