Despite major positive steps to mend the trade war between the U.S. and China, U.S. farmers are still at risk. So, the new farm bill for 2018 addresses some urgent needs for marketing, farm support and the development of farm infrastructure in rural areas.
Areas of innovation include funding for the national organic label and for stimulating the production of industrial hemp. Farm aid is proposed at $1.8 billion, more than $32 million above the fiscal 2019 level. More than $3.9 billion is proposed for infrastructure development in rural areas.
Marginally more funding across a broad range of programs
The 2018 bill also allocates nearly $4 billion for rural development and infrastructure projects that will bring sustainable infrastructure and utility access to rural communities.
The bill dedicates some of the money to enhanced broadband to provide critical digital access along with educational and employment opportunities to rural communities. This is also critically important for farm producers to store and use all the digital data collected on their farms.
The National Organic Program will receive $18 million to promote and protect the integrity of the USDA organic label. One new area of funding is for industrial hemp, which has been approved on a nationwide basis, and will receive a $16 million boost from a targeted industrial hemp marketing campaign.
Farmers are still dealing with the trade wars
With many farmers still struggling to reverse the negative impact of the trade wars and adverse weather conditions, the increase in farm bill funding provides much needed support for emergency loan programs.
Many of the programs incorporated in the 2018 bill intend to help farmers in the long run. In addition to the new hemp crop, the Local Agriculture Marketing Service will receive more than $24 million in funding to help stimulate the growth of local agriculture. A bill gives a whopping $1.04 billion for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. This department seeks to eliminate pernicious pests that can devastate crop yields and grower's revenue.
An equivalent amount has been targeted for USDA food safety that focuses on keeping the nation's supply of meat and poultry safe for consumers. One significant funding increase will be for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) that conducts critical research in the areas of food safety, water quality, crop disease, and microbial resistance and food production. The service will receive an additional $387 million above its 2019 funding.
Water getting more attention
Recognizing that weather extremes, both drought conditions and floods, are having an increasing effect on crops, the farm bill aims to provide help so farmers can protect their land for future generations. Nearly 17% of this funding is earmarked to protect watersheds and to create soil management programs that can insulate farmers from the potential damage from floods.
The 2018 farm bill will not be a cure-all for the financial problems farmers have incurred during the past two years as a result of trade policies, but there is reason to be encouraged by the direction of federal farm policies and the commitment to fund critical programs that will ensure healthy farms and a robust farm economy in the coming years. To stay up-to-date on farmland issues, visit Halderman Real Estate.