TITLE I – COMMODITIES
Subtitle A – Commodity Policy
Producers once again have the option to sign up for either the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs. If producers with base acres fail to sign up for a specific program they will automatically be enrolled in the ARC program, which is the reverse of the 2014 Farm Bill. For both programs, FSA is required to publish county payment rates no longer than 30 days after the end of the marketing year. Payments will still be made starting October 1 of a given year, but producers will have more certainty over the extent of the Title I payments that will be provided.
There are no changes to reference prices for PLC. Changes to ARC are modest in size. ARC payments for losses will be determined by the physical county. If a tract stretches across a county line each segment will be prorated in its respective county. Actual county yields will utilize data from a single source that provides the most accurate calculations. The bill also changes the ARC transitional yield to 75 percent from 70 percent. That will increase the 5-year average yield, but in no way, makes ARC competitive with PLC.
Cotton remains a covered commodity. The Transition Assistance Program for Upland Cotton is repealed. Payments were only made (by statute) for the first two years of the 2014 Farm Bill.
Subtitle C – Sugar
There are no significant changes to the sugar program.
Subtitle D – Dairy
The Margin Protection Program has been renamed the Dairy Risk Coverage Program (DRCP). The changes build on the progress advanced through disaster legislation in 2017. There are few increases in spending in this bill. However, the DRCP provides roughly an extra $100 million in support. The Buy-up coverage remains in two separate tiers, below 5 million pounds of production and above 5 million pounds.
The premium rates for all buy-up coverage increased slightly below 5 million pounds and more significantly for the premiums above 5 million pounds. The reason for the higher premiums in the higher coverage level is that buy-up is not particularly strong for higher levels of production. By raising the rates they were able to grab money that was not really being spent. Like the House, the Senate created a $8.50 and $9.00 margin for under 5 million pounds of milk. It is competitively priced, especially at $9. Since 2015 MPP triggered 15 of the 40 months at $8, it would have triggered 23 times at $9
Under current law a producer can cover between 25 and 90 percent of their production. The senate drops the minimum coverage level to 5 percent to allow larger dairy producers to utilize the premium rates under 5 million pounds while also having CAT coverage in the second tier.
The rates are as follows:
Under 5 Million Pounds of Production Over 5 million Pounds of Production
Margin Cost Margin Cost
$4.00 None $4.00 None
$4.50 $0.005 $4.50 $0.048
$5.00 $0.001 $5.00 $0.096
$5.50 $0.002 $5.50 $0.144
$6.00 $0.040 $6.00 $0.240
$6.50 $0.070 $6.50 $0.420
$7.00 $0.100 $7.00 $1.08
$7.50 $0.120 $7.50 $1.32
$8.00 $0.140 $8.00 $1.68
In addition to the rates above, there is a discount for small and medium sized producers. This is not based on covered production, rather actual farm production. If a dairy farm produces 2 million pounds of milk (100 cows) the rates are discounted by 50 percent. If an operation produces between 2 million pounds, but less than 10 million pounds the rates are reduced by 25 percent. In such a case $9.00 coverage for $0.09 (small) or $0.135 (medium) versus current $8.00 coverage for $0.142.
The bill repeals the Dairy Product Donation Program. The program had a small amount of baseline. That baseline is reinvested in donations from another vantage. $5 million dollars annually (until expended) will be used to help cover the cost of donations and addresses the disincentive for dairy processors or cooperatives to donate milk. Selected participants will receive a reimbursement for the cost differential between Class I value and Class III or IV.
Like the House, the Senate made changes to Class I skim milk prices. The change in pricing formula is for milk of the highest classification for Class I milk. It will be the simple average of advanced pricing factors of 1000.50(q)(1) and (2) plus $0.74.
Marketing loan rates are reauthorized, but rates remain the same. The Tree Assistance Program is reauthorized with one small amendment. Beginning and veteran farmers will receive a high percentage reimbursement for losses. Reimbursements for replanting costs will increase from 65% to 75% and pruning, removal, and other costs will increase from 50% to 75%.
Subtitle F – Noninsured Crop Assistance
The Noninsured Crop Assistance Program (NAP) was moved from Title XII to Title I. The changes streamline the submission process for records and acreage reports. Coverage levels and payment limits are increased to $125,000 for CAT coverage and $300,000 for buy-up coverage. With the increase coverage comes increased service fees. It goes from $250 to $325 and $1875 to $1950.
Subtitle G – Administration
Eligibility for Title I programs is currently subject to a $900,000 Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) cap. The cap was lowered to $700,000. The AGI is averaged over a three-year period.
TITLE II – CONSERVATION
Subtitle A – Conservation Reserve Program
Sec. 2101 Extension and Enrollment Requirements of Conservation Reserve Program
Increases CRP acreage to 25 million acres for FY2019-2023. Allows producers to submit applications for CRP-Grasslands on a continuous basis. Designates priority for land designated as a State acres for wildlife enhancement area (SAFE area) on 30 percent of continuous acres. Designates priority for contracts addressing water quality on 40 percent of continuous acres. Authorizes States or Indian Tribes to designate a SAFE area, and designates priority for certain requests.
Sec. 2102 Farmable Wetland Program
Reauthorizes the program through 2023.
Sec. 2103 Duties of the Secretary
Authorizes cost-share for fencing and other water distribution practices. Grants the Governor of a State the authority to designate CRP lands for emergency haying and grazing in the case of drought, flooding, or wildfires. Give the Secretary the power to veto such designations. Restricts haying and grazing in cases that would cause long-term damage to vegetative cover.
Sec. 2104 Payments
Limits rental payments to 88.5% of the estimated county average rental rate for general and continuous sign-up. Increases mandatory funding for tree incentive payments from $10 million to $11 million for fiscal years 2019-2023. Directs the Secretary to make incentive payments for continuous enrollments contracts if the national average market price is above a 10-year floor.
Sec. 2105 Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program
Authorizes the Secretary to enter into an agreement with eligible partners to carry out CREP. Allows commitments from eligible partners to include cash, in-kind, or technical assistance. Requires the Secretary to provide cost share payments, and requires incentive payments for riparian buffers.
Sec. 2106 Contracts
Increases funding for the CRP-TIP program from $33 million to $50 million for fiscal years 2019-2023. Expands the CRP-Transition Incentives Program to include leases of less than 5 years. Designates priority for TIP land that is to be enrolled in CSP, EQIP, or ACEP.
Sec. 2107 Conservation Reserve Easements
Authorizes the Secretary to enroll CRP land through a permanent Conservation Reserve Easement. Land enrolled through permanent easements will not be counted against the acreage cap. Payments are to be up to the fair market value of the land.
Subtitle B – Conservation Stewardship Program
Sec. 2201 Definitions
Includes comprehensive conservation plan, soil health planning, and activities to mitigate increasing weather volatility under the definition of “conservation activities.” Modifies the definition of “stewardship threshold” to provide more detail regarding tools, models, systems and data to be used.
Sec. 2203 Stewardship Contracts
Amends the application ranking process to factor environmental benefits, the degree to which proposed conservation activities increase benefits, and other criteria. Criteria for breaking ties on applications receiving the same ranking is based on the expected conservation benefits relative to cost.
Sec. 2204 Duties of the Secretary
Reduces new acreage for the program from 10 million acres annually to 8.8 million acres. Authorizes new increased payment of 125 percent for cover crop activities. Authorizes supplemental payment for advanced grazing management. Requires the Secretary to pay at least 150 percent of the annual payment amount for supplemental payments. Authorizes a one-time payment for the development of a comprehensive conservation plan. The planning payment is to be factored on the number of priority resource concerns addressed and the number of types of land uses included in the plan. Requires the Secretary to allocate funds to support organic production and transition. Requires streamlining and coordination with EQIP application, contracting planning, and administrative procedures. Requires the Secretary to manage the program to enhance soil health. Requires an annual report on CSP payment rates.
Subtitle C – Environmental Quality Incentives Program
Sec. 2301 Purposes
Adds weather volatility mitigation to the purposes of the program.
Sec. 2302 Definitions
Defines the term “conservation planning survey,” creating a new eligible practice under EQIP. A conservation planning survey is developed by a conservation district, a federal agency, or an eligible third-party provider and can be used as a standalone practice to assess rangeland or cropland function. The plan can be incorporated into comprehensive planning documents required for enrollment in a conservation program. The survey also provides recommendations for enrollment in conservation programs.
Sec. 2303 Establishment and Administration
Reduces mandatory EQIP funding from $1.75 million for FY18. (See Sec. 2501 Funding) Funding levels roughly align with changes in mandatory program spending (CHIMPS). Annual funding levels are as follows:
$1.473 million for FY19
$1.478 million for FY20
$1.541 million for FY21
$1.571 million for FY22
$1.595 million for FY23
Requires the Secretary to review cost-share rates to evaluate whether those rates are least costly to encourage participation and implementation of the most effective practices. Requires the Secretary to review conservation practice standards to increase flexibility where applicable. Reduces the livestock set-aside from 60 percent to 50 percent. Directs the Secretary to review the process for determining allocation funds to States. Defines water conservation practices to include less water-intensive commodities or practices or resource-conserving crop rotations. Prioritizes projects that address regional drought control efforts.
Sec. 2304 Evaluation of Applications
Designates priority for practices most effective at addressing natural resource concerns.
Sec. 2305 Duties of the Secretary
Requires streamlining and coordination with CSP application, contracting planning, and administrative procedures. Requires the Secretary to manage the program to enhance soil health.
Sec. 2306 Limitation on Payments
Maintains the EQIP payment limit at $450,000 per contract.
Sec. 2307 Conservation Innovation Grants and Payments
Expands CIG to apply to projects partnering with farmers to develop urban, indoor or other emerging practices.
Sec. 2308 Soil Health Demonstration Pilot Project
Authorizes a soil health demonstration pilot project to provide financial incentives for producers for geographically appropriate soil health practices. Authorizes a study of soil health practices. Allocates $15 million annually for each fiscal year to carry out the pilot.
Subtitle D – Other Conservation Programs
Sec. 2401 Conservation Security Program
Repeals the Conservation Security Program.
Sec. 2402 Conservation of Private Grazing Land
Requires the Secretary to conduct education and outreach activities with land-grant colleges and NGOs.
Sec. 2403 Soil Health and Income Protection Program
Establishes a voluntary program to assist with conservation and improvement of soil, water, and wildlife resources. Allows haying, grazing and harvesting of land outside the nesting and brooding period. Authorizes payment of 50 percent of the average CRP payment, with rate of 75 percent for beginning, small, socially disadvantaged, young, or veteran farmers and ranchers. Limits eligibility to 15 percent of eligible land on a farm. Allows contracts of 3, 4, or 5 years. Authorizes appropriations of such sums as necessary.
Sec. 2404 Grassroots Source Water Protection Program
Increases discretionary funding from $20 million to $25 million for each fiscal year.
Sec. 2405 Soil Testing and Remediation Assistance
Authorizes soil testing and remediation assistance to mitigate the presence of contaminants in the soil.
Sec. 2406 Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program
Merges authority with CIG authority. Authorizes $25 million of EQIP funds for VPA.
Sec. 2407 Agriculture Conservation Experienced Services Program
Reauthorizes the program through 2023.
Sec. 2408 Agricultural Conservation Easement Program
Increases ACEP funding to $400 million for each of fiscal years 2019 through 2021, $425 million for FY2022, and $450 million for FY2023. (See Sec. 2501 Funding) Expands the definition of eligible land to include land owned by an organization that will transfer the ownership of the land to a farmer or rancher (Buy-Protect-Sell). Expands the non-federal share to include charitable donations from a private land owner from which a land easement is purchased, costs associated with securing a deed, and other costs, as determined by the Secretary. Requires an eligible entity to develop an agricultural land easement plan that describes natural resource concerns, conservation measures and practices to be employed, and other land management practices. Requires the Secretary to develop evaluation and ranking criteria that accounts for geographic nuances. Authorizes the Secretary to award priority to an application that maintains agricultural viability. Authorizes the Secretary to consider the ability of the land to sequester carbon under wetland reserve easements. Expands priority to include easements that improve water quality. Authorizes the Secretary to allow the establishment or restoration of an alternative vegetative community.
Sec. 2409 Regional Conservation Partnership Program
Increases mandatory funding from $100 million to $200 million for each fiscal year. Maintains the percentage of funds and acres from CSP, EQIP, and ACEP at 7 percent. Adds CRP and the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act to the list of covered programs. Expands the program uses beyond covered programs to conservation activities. Adds land trusts, acequias and conservation districts to the definition of eligible partners. Expands partner contribution to include direct funding, in-kind support, or a combination. Clarifies that the maximum length of a partnership agreement can be no longer than 5 years and authorizes the Secretary to renew partnership agreements. Increases flexibility for conservation practices used. Requires the Secretary to develop a streamlined application process. Authorizes the Secretary to provide financial or technical assistance to conduct conservation activities. Allows an eligible partner to submit a bundle of applications on behalf of eligible producers and awards priority to such applications. Authorizes new grant agreements and requires the Secretary to provide technical and administrative assistance under such agreements. Limits grant funding to 30 percent of total funding. Increases funding for State projects to 40 percent of total funding, and grants authority for multistate projects. Eliminates funding for national projects and increases funding for critical conservation areas to 60 percent. Requires the Secretary to designate one or more critical conservation conditions in each critical conservation area.
Sec. 2410 Emergency Conservation Program
Sets a payment limit of $500,000. Reserves 25 percent of funds for the repair or replacement of fencing.
Sec. 2411 Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program
Authorizes appropriations of $200 million annually through 2023.
Sec. 2412 Small Watershed Rehabilitation Program
Provides no new mandatory funding. Authorizes appropriations of $20 million for each fiscal year.
Repeals various dormant programs.
Sec. 2420 Resource Conservation and Development Program
Authorizes the program through 2023.
Sec. 2421 Wildlife Management
Requires the Secretary to continue to carry out the Working Lands for Wildlife program. Authorizes the Secretary to expand the program through new partnership agreements with the Farm Service Agency and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Authorizes the Secretary to provide assistance to ensure regulatory certainty to farmers, ranchers, or private forest landowners.
Sec. 2422 Health Forests Reserve Program
Expands the program purposes to include conservation of habitats for candidate, threatened, and endangered species. Eliminates the limitation on the use of cost-share agreements and easements. Requires restoration plans to include land management practices, vegetative treatments, structural practices and measures, practices to improve biological diversity, practices to increase carbon sequestration, and other appropriate activities, as determined by the Secretary.
Subtitle E – Funding and Administration
Sec. 2501 Funding
(For funding levels, see program sections above.) Directs NRCS to serve as the lead agency in developing and establishing technical standards and requirements for conservation programs and requires FSA to consistently apply those standards. Requires the Secretary to establish a procedure to allow State technical committees or State FSA committees to modify standards or requirements based on local concerns.
Sec. 2502 Delivery of Technical Assistance
Defines the term “third-party provider” and directs the Secretary to establish a certification process to be administered by the Chief of NRCS. Provides for streamlined certification of a third-party provider.
Sec. 2503 Administrative Requirements for Conservation Programs
Requires the Secretary to encourage source water protection practices in CSP and EQIP. Provides administrative requirements for payments to acequias.
Sec. 2504 Definition of Acequia
Defines an acequia.
Sec. 2505 Authorization of Appropriations for Water Bank program.
Authorizes appropriations of $5 million annually through 2023, until expended.
Sec. 2506 Report on Land Access, Tenure, and Transition
Requires the Secretary to submit a report to Congress examining challenges and opportunities to improve land access, tenure and transition.
Subtitle F – Technical Corrections
Minor technical corrections to language.
TITLE III – TRADE
Subtitle A – Food for Peace Act
Reauthorizes the Food for Peace Act with various minor changes.
Subtitle B – Agricultural Trade Act of 1978
Sec. 3201 Priority Trade Promotion, Development, and Assistance.
Consolidates the Market Access Program, the Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program, the E. (Kika) De La Garza Agricultural Fellowship Program, and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops to create a new Priority Trade Promotion, Development, and Assistance Program. Maintains the integrity of each program. Provides mandatory funding of $259.5 million for each fiscal year. Of the mandatory funds provided, $200 million are reserved for the Market Access program; $34.5 million for the Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program; $10 million for the E. (Kika) De La Garza Agricultural Fellowship program; $9 million for Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops; and $6 million for programs to access, develop, maintain, and expand markets for agricultural commodities.
Subtitle C – Other Agricultural Trade Laws
Reauthorizes programs and discretionary funding for Food for Progress Act of 1985, Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust Act, Promotion of Agricultural Exports to Emerging Markets, Cochran Emerging Market Fellowship Program, Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program, International Food Security Technical Assistance, McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, Global Crop Diversity Trust, Local and Regional Food Aid Procurement Projects, and Agriculture Wool Apparel Manufacturers Trust Fund.
TITLE IV – NUTRITION
This Bill, unlike the 2014 Farm Bill, does not deal with child nutrition. There is no buy fresh, buy American, or other provisions.
Subtitle A – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
Sec. 4103 Work Requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
The Senate approach to work requirements is significantly different than the House approach. There is no additional hour of service requirements on top of existing requirements. The bill includes $185 million to conduct additional employment and training pilot projects that target individuals 50 years of age or older, formerly incarcerated individuals, or individuals in a substance abuse treatment program. There are also new requirements on state agencies to match workforce development and training programs with local needs. The bill also expands workforce partnerships targeting able body adults without depended.
The bill expands the work pilot programs established in the 2014 Farm Bill. It will let additional states participate in and provide additional funding for the SNAP employment and training demonstration pilots, creating more opportunities to build evidence on what works best in helping SNAP participants secure and retain jobs.
Sec. 4104 Improvements to the Electronic Benefit Transfer System
There are several amendments to improve the EBT system, including allowing farmers’ markets to operate a point of sale device at more than 1 location under the same supplemental nutrition assistance retailer authorization, provided that the farmers’ market provides certain information to the Secretary to ensure the integrity of transactions processed.
Sec. 4107-4109 Income Verification, Data Matching, and Quality Control
The bill deals with potential fraud by testing income verification systems, enhance states’ ability to prevent dual participation Allow states to ease paperwork and office visit requirements on participants who are seniors or people with disabilities with stable income sources, and repeals the state performance bonuses.
Sec. 4114 Emergency Food Assistance Program
The bill reauthorizes a number of emergency food assistance programs in both the mandatory and discretionary space. It provides $10 million annually for state agencies to partner with emergency feeding organizations to establish projects to harvest, process, or package commodities that are donated by agricultural producers, processors, or distributors. The bill contains mandatory funding for State agencies to pay for up to 50 percent of the cost of the projects.
Subtitle C – Miscellaneous
Sec. 4303 Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive
The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) is renamed as a tribute to the late Gus Schumacher. The program will also have permanent baseline going forward. This would be the first time.
TITLE V – CREDIT
Sec. 5101 Modification of the 3-Year Experience Requirement for Purposes of Eligibility for Farm Ownership Loans
The bill modifies the 3-year experience requirement for farm ownership eligibility. Two years of experience will suffice if an applicant has 16 hours post-secondary ag. education, completed an accredited farm management curriculum, has an honorable discharge from the military, repaid a youth loan, had one year as hired farm labor with management experience, and successful completion of an on-farm mentorship, internship, or apprenticeship.
Sec. 5302 Loan Authorization Levels
All loan categories are reauthorized. Current law authorizes FSA loans at $4.226 billion. Appropriations have been providing lending levels well over that authorization for several years. The bill authorizes $12 billion for the loan portfolio. Current direct lending totals $1.2 billion and guaranteed lending is $3.026 billion. The bill increases direct lending to $4 billion and $8 billion for guaranteed loans. For additional context USDA just came off two record years (slower this year) in which they loaned roughly $6 billion to producers.
Sec. 5401 State Agricultural Mediation Programs
State Agricultural Mediation Programs are reauthorized again at $7.5 million. There is no mandatory money. Eligible mediation practices are expanded in the program to include lease issues, family farm transitions, farmer-neighbor disputes, and other issues the Secretary deems appropriate. The bill requires USDA to publish a report within two years on the effectiveness of the program, recommendations to improve delivery, timing of federal funding, and savings for states as a result of having a mediation program.
Like the House bill, the remainder of the miscellaneous subtitle is technical corrections and clean-up. The text was written in cooperation with the Farm Credit Administration. The changes align certain components of credit regulations with banking regulations. There are also technical corrections and stricter requirements on sanctioned individuals.
TITLE VI – RURAL DEVELOPMENT
Subtitle A – Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act
Sec. 6101-6103 Water, Waste Disposal, and Wastewater Facility Grants
Reauthorizes the program and increases the maximum amount of grant funding from $100,000 to $200,000. Reauthorizes Rural Water and Wastewater Technical Assistance and Training Programs, provides selection priority, and expands amount of funds available from 3 to 5 percent. Reauthorizes the Rural Water and Wastewater Circuit Rider Program and increases discretionary funding from $20 million to $25 million for each fiscal year.
Sec. 6105 Community Facilities Direct Loans and Grants for Substance Use Disorder Treatment Services
Designates priority for eligible entities to develop facilities or employ staff for opioid prevention, treatment, and recovery services.
Sec. 6106 Emergency and Imminent Community Water Assistance Program
Increases maximum grant amount from $500,000 to $1 million. Gives priority to projects to address water contamination. Creates an Interagency Task Force on Rural Water Quality and requires a report of the Task Force. Increases discretionary funding from $35 million to $50 million for each fiscal year.
Sec. 6108 Rural Decentralized Water Systems
Limits eligibility to households that have not more than 60 percent of the median nonmetropolitan household income for the State or territory. Expands purposes of program to include decentralized wastewater systems and water treatment systems in the case of ground well water contamination. Increases discretionary funding from $5 million to $40 million.
Sec. 6109 Solid Waste Management Grants
Reauthorizes the program.
Sec. 6110 Rural Business Development Grants
Reauthorizes the program.
Sec. 6111 Rural Cooperative Development Grants
Reauthorizes the program and makes a minor technical change regarding cooperative research agreements.
Sec. 6112 Locally or Regionally Produced Agricultural Food Products
Reauthorizes the program.
Sec. 6113 Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas Program
Reauthorizes the program.
Sec. 6114 Intermediary Relending Program
Increases the maximum loan amount an intermediary may lend to a qualified project, reduces matching amounts for preferred lenders, and allows for return of equity consistent with loan amortization schedules.
Sec. 6115 Single Application for Broadband
Limits the incidental portion of any RD grant, loan, or loan guarantee used to fund broadband facilities and service to 10% of the total.
Sec. 6116 Loan Guarantee Loan Fees
Authorizes the Secretary to charge lenders of guaranteed loans a fee to offset subsidy costs.
Sec. 6117 Rural Business-Cooperative Service Programs Technical Assistance and Training
Establishes a new technical assistance and training grant program to assist with economic and small business development needs. Designates priority for persistently impoverished rural communities. Authorizes discretionary funding of $5 million.
Sec. 6119 Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program
Increases the minimum percentage of funding an eligible microenterprise development organization can receive in technical assistance grants. Decreases discretionary funding from $40 million to $20 million.
Sec. 6121 Strategic Economic and Community Development
Designates priority for projects that support implementation of a strategic community investment plan. Authorizes discretionary funding at $5 million for each fiscal year.
Sec. 6123 Rural Business Investment Program
Reauthorizes the program.
Subtitle B – Rural Electrification Act of 1936
Reauthorizes Electric Loan Refinancing, Loans for Telephone Service, Cushion of Credit Payments Program, and Guarantees for Bonds and Notes issued for Electrification or Telephone Purposes. Provides $5 million in mandatory funding and authorizes an additional $5 million in discretionary funding for the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program for fiscal years 2022 and 2023.
Sec. 6205 Access to Broadband Telecommunications Services in Rural Areas
Codifies USDA’s current definition of minimum acceptable broadband service of 25 mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. Prioritizes funding to unserved communities, communities with a population of less than 10,000, and those experiencing outmigration and that have adopted a strategic community investment plan. Increases discretionary funding from $25 million to $150 million for each fiscal year.
Sec. 6206 Community Connect Grant Program
Codifies the existing Community Connect Program. Authorizes discretionary funding of $50 million for each fiscal year.
Sec. 6207 Transparency in the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program
Requires transparency for the program.
Sec. 6208 Refinancing of Broadband and Telephone Loans
Gives RUS the authority to refinance telephone and broadband loans.
Subtitle C – Miscellaneous
Sec. 6301 Distance Learning and Telemedicine
Reserves 20 percent of funds for applications related to substance use disorder treatment services.
Sec. 6302 Rural Energy Savings Program
Allows financing of renewable energy and energy storage systems.
TITLE VII – RESEARCH
Sec. 7105 Veterinary Services Grant
The bill reauthorizes the Veterinary Services Grant Program. It creates a new carve out that requires 2/3rds of the grant funding be made available for research on food animal medicine. It also expands the program’s mission and includes entities exposing students in high school to education and career opportunities in food animal medicine.
Sec. 7110 Next Generation Agriculture Technology Challenge
The Next Generation Agriculture Technology Challenge is a new concept that creates an incentive ($1 million in prize money) to develop innovative mobile technology that removes barriers to entry in the marketplace for beginning farmers and ranchers.
Sec. 7121 Partnerships to Build Capacity in International Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching
As a compliment to the farmer-to-farmer exchanges, the bill provides Partnerships to Build Capacity in International Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching. It allows for capacity building of covered Institutions and agricultural higher education institutions in lower and middle-income countries through cooperation and coordination. Through institutional capacity building, international farmers could have the ability to rely on land grant-style institutions in their respective countries. Provides $10 million in authorization.
Sec. 7125 Supplemental and Alternative Crops
The bill expands supplemental and alternative research to include hemp.
Sec. 7128 Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority
The bill includes a new concept styled after other research entities in the federal government that deal with high impact-high reward research. The Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority (AGARDA) aims to overcome long-term and high-risk research challenges in agriculture and food. It will look to accelerate novel, early stage, and innovative ag research through prototype testing, preclinical development, or field experiments. The Secretary will develop a strategic plan. The plan will be authorized at $10 million annually.
Sec. 7205 National Strategic Germplasm and Cultivar Collection Assessment and Utilization Plan
The National Strategic Germplasm and Cultivar Collection Assessment and Utilization Plan is amended to expand membership of the advisory council. The goal is to expand the state of public cultivar development through the analysis of existing cultivar research investments, gaps related to cultivar development, an assessment of the state of commercialization of federally funded cultivars, training and resources needed to meet future breeding challenges, and the appropriate levels of funding for underserved crops and geographic areas.
Sec. 7205 High-Priority Research and Extension Initiatives
Pollinator research is expanded across a number of different programs and subsections.
Sec. 7210 Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative
The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative receives mandatory funding of $40 million in fiscal years 2019 and 2020, $45 million for fiscal year 2021, and $50 million for fiscal year 2022 and each fiscal year thereafter. Current law provides $20 million annually. This significant increase will prevent this program from being orphaned in future bills as the allocated money is enough to create mandatory permanent baseline.
Sec. 7212 Urban, Indoor, and Other Emerging Agriculture Production Research, Education, and Extension Initiative
The bill expands efforts focused on urban and indoor agriculture. The Urban, Indoor, and Other Emerging Agriculture Production Research, Education, and Extension Initiative authorizes competitive research and extension grants to support research, education, and extension activities for the purposes of enhancing urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural production. The bill provides $4 million mandatory and $10 million discretionary funding for each fiscal year 2019-2023.
Sec. 7302 Support for Research Regarding Diseases of Wheat, Triticale, and Barley Caused by Fusarium Graminearum or Tilletia Indica
Wheat and Barley scab research is modestly expanded. Current law provides $10 million in authorization annually for research. This bill expands it to $15 million annual authorization.
Sec. 7304 Specialty Crop Research Initiative
The bill reauthorizes the Specialty Crop Research Initiative. In current law there is a mandatory funding set aside for citrus disease research. That is removed, a positive for non-citrus producing areas. $800 million over the life of the farm bill is provided, which is flat funding. Citrus research will now be carried out through a trust fund that was set up through the financial services committee (Title XII).
Sec. 7409 Biomass Research and Development
Moves the Biomass Research and Development Program from the Energy Title to the Research Title. Reauthorizes the program with no new mandatory funding.
Sec. 7413 Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research
The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is reauthorized and provided $200 million in mandatory funding.
Sec. 7415 Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research
Hemp research is also expanded. The bill requires the Secretary to conduct a study and report on the economic viability of domestic production and sale of industrial hemp. The report will review each hemp pilot program, other ag. and academic research related to industrial hemp, and commercial viability to congress within 120 days of enactment.
Sec. 7511 Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network
The bill reauthorizes the Farm and Stress Assistance Network to provide stress assistance programs to individuals who are engaged in farming, ranching, and other agriculture related occupations. Requires a report by the Secretary of Agriculture, in coordination with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, describing the state of behavioral and mental health in farmers and ranchers. The bill authorizes $10 million annually in appropriations.
TITLE VIII – FORESTRY
Sec. 8101 State and Private Forest Landscape-Scale Restoration Program
Establishes a new grant program for financial and technical assistance for restoration of priority forest landscapes. Requires collaboration and consultation regarding the identification of other applicable resources. Authorizes discretionary funding of $20 million for each fiscal year.
Sec. 8611 Categorical Exclusion for Greater Sage Grouse and Mule Deer Habitat
Authorizes the Secretary to develop and use a categorical exclusion for certain forest management activities to protect, restore, or improve habitat for the greater sage-grouse or mule deer. Requires development and implementation of projects through a collaborative process that is based on the best available scientific information. Establishes a cap of 3,000 acres for projects utilizing the categorical exclusion.
Sec. 8643 Wood Innovation Grant Program
Establishes a wood innovation grant program to promote research and development of innovative wood products to promote more environmentally friendly construction practices. Authorizes the Secretary to provide grants to recipients who are able to provide non-federal matching funds equal to the Federal contribution.
TITLE IX – ENERGY
Sec. 9101 Definitions
Expands the definition of biobased products to include renewable chemicals. Expands the definition of a biorefinery to include facilities that produce biofuels, renewable chemicals, biobased products, or any combination of the three. Expands the definition of a renewable energy system to include distribution components necessary to move energy produced by a system and other ancillary components of a system, including energy storage.
Sec. 9102 Biobased Markets Program
Moves the program from Departmental Management to the Rural Development mission area. Requires the Secretary to update criteria for determining which renewable chemicals may qualify to receive the label. Makes several changes to expediting the federal procurement process. Provides no new mandatory funding and increases discretionary funding from $2 million to $3 million for each fiscal year.
Sec. 9103 Biorefinery Assistance
Expands the program to include any facility that produces an advanced biofuel, a renewable chemical, a biobased product, or any combination of the three.
Sec. 9105 Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuel
Provides no new mandatory funding. Reduces discretionary funding from $20 million to $15 million for each fiscal year.
Sec. 9107 Rural Energy for America Program
Maintains mandatory funding. Increases discretionary funding from $20 million to $50 million for each fiscal year.
Sec. 9109 Feedstock Flexibility Program for Bioenergy Producers
Reauthorizes the program.
Sec. 9110 Biomass Crop Assistance Program
Expands eligible materials to include algae. Clarifies that material harvested for the purpose of hazardous woody fuel reduction qualifies for matching payments. Provides no new mandatory funding. Provides $20 million in discretionary funding for each fiscal year.
TITLE X – HORTICULTURE
Sec. 10101 Specialty Crops Market News Allocation
Reauthorizes the program.
Sec. 10102 Local Agriculture Market Program
Consolidates the authority for value-added agricultural market development program grants and the farmers’ market and local food promotion program. Continues to administer individual program functions through RD and AMS, respectively. Provides new grants to support partnerships to plan and develop local and regional food systems.Reduces the match for VAPG to 50 percent of the total amount of the grant, including in-kind contributions. Limits funding for food safety equipment to $6,500. Provides mandatory funding of $60 million and discretionary funding of $20 million for each fiscal year. Reserves 10 percent of funds for regional partnerships. Reserves 35 percent of funds for VAPG. Reserves 47 percent of funds for FMLFPP.
Sec. 10103 Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives
Allows remainder of $5 million to be used through the end of fiscal year 2018. Maintains mandatory funding at $5 million for fiscal years 2019 through 2023.
Sec. 10104 Organic Certification
Requires the Secretary to issue regulations to limit the type of organic operations that are exclude from certification from organic certification. Authorizes the Secretary to oversee any certifying agent operating in a foreign country. Requires documentation to verify that an imported agricultural product is organic. Establishes a mandatory NOP import certificate and tracking system. Requires the Secretary to modernize international trade tracking and data collection systems. Codifies the requirement for an amendment to the national List to be a decisive vote that requires 2/3 of the votes cast at a meeting of the NOSB. Establishes an organic agricultural product imports interagency working group to facilitate coordination and information sharing between USDA and Customs and Border Protection. Increases discretionary funding for from $15 million in FY18 to $16.5 million in FY19, $18 million in FY20, $20 million in FY21, $22 million in FY22, and $24 million in FY23. Provides $5 million in mandatory funding for the modernization of trade tracking and data collection systems.
Sec. 10105 National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program
Maintains mandatory funding at $11.5 million for each fiscal year.
Sec. 10106 Food Safety Education Initiatives
Reauthorizes the program.
Sec. 10107 Specialty Crop Block Grants
Updates the State plan to include performance measures and provide best practices to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. Requires the Secretary to provide guidance to states regarding best practices and national and regional priorities, which are based on stakeholder input. Gives the AMS administrator authority over multistate projects. Maintains mandatory funding at $5 million per year.
Sec. 10108 Plant Variety Protection
Expands authorized types of reproduction to include asexual reproduction.
Sec. 10109 Multiple Crop and Pesticide Use Survey
Requires the Secretary to conduct a multiple crop and pesticide use survey for risk assessment modeling and mitigation for an active ingredient. Authorizes $2.5 million in discretionary funding for the survey.
Sec. 10110 Clarification of Use of Funds for Technical Assistance
Excludes funding used to provide technical assistance from the cap on salary and expenses.
Sec. 10111 Hemp Production
Allows states to regulate hemp growth and production, based on a state or tribal plan that includes information on the land where hemp is grown, procedures for testing THC concentration, and disposal of noncompliant plants. The provision would not preempt State or Indian tribe laws, as long as the law is consistent with the provision. Creates a corrective action plan for hemp producers who have negligently violated the State or Tribal plan. Requires states and tribes without USDA approved plans to follow federal laws and regulations promulgated by USDA on hemp production. Authorizes an appropriation of such sums as are necessary.
Sec. 10112 Rule of Construction
Clarifies that nothing in the title interferes with the interstate commerce of hemp.
TITLE XI – CROP INSURANCE
Sec. 11101 Definitions
The bill defines both “hemp” and “cover crop termination.” Cover crop termination is defined as “a practice that historically and under reasonable circumstances results in the termination of the growth of a cover crop.”
Sec. 11105 Specialty Crops
Development of policies and research for specialty crops is expanded. There will be a specialty crop liaison at each RMA regional field office and a website geared towards producers of specialty crops and insurance options. The FCIC board will provide annual research and development for polices for new crops, expansion of existing policies, and research and development for alternative endorsements for existing policies. The committee’s expectation is that at least two new products a year will be rolled out for specialty crops.
Sec. 11107 Cover Crops
The bill clarifies conditions for voluntary conservation practices, including cover crops, to be considered as good farming practices. It adds that cover crop termination will not affect the insurability of an insurable crop if termination is carried out according to guidelines that are established by the Secretary with input from NRCS and other ag. experts.
Sec. 11108 Underserved Producers
A report to congress is required to better understand underserved producers and ways to increase participation of producers not adequately served by crop insurance.
Sec. 11109 Expansion of Performance-Based Discount
Starting in reimbursement year 2020, this bill gives the FCIC authority to offer discounts on policies for practices that can be demonstrated to reduce risk relative to other practices. The expansion of performance-based discounts can consider precision irrigation, fertilization, crop rotations, cover crops, and other practices determined appropriate by FCIC.
Sec. 11110 Enterprise Units
The bill allows a producer to establish a single enterprise unit by combining enterprise units or enterprise units with basic units and optional units in one or more other counties.
Sec. 11113 Whole Farm Revenue Agent Incentives
Unlike the House Bill there is no additional insurance discounts for beginning farmers. The House bill limits discounts (an increase from 7 to 10 years that a producer can receive a discount) to Whole Farm Revenue Protection Policies. The Senate, in an effort to sell more WFRP polices provides incentives through increased reimbursements to agents. Starting in the 2019 reinsurance year, an agent who sells a WFRP policy to a beginning farmer, who has never obtained coverage under the policy, will receive an additional $300.
Sec. 11114 Crop Production on Native Sod
The bill reduces benefits for insurable crops for any four years after certain native sod acreage has been tilled, which may be nonconsecutive, for producers in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota, and requires an annual report describing the reductions in benefits. There is no geographic expansion beyond existing sod saver areas.
Sec. 11122 Research and Development Authority
The bill requires that the FCIC board enter into contracts to carry out research and development to maintain or improve existing policies or develop new policies. Provides direction for the following priorities: effectiveness of whole farm plans (consider removing caps on nursery and livestock, minimizing paperwork, creating separate paperwork requirements for farms with less than $1 million in gross income, and alternative record keeping requirements), irrigated grain sorghum, limited irrigation, quality loss 9eye towards wheat), citrus, greenhouses, hops, and local foods (direct to consumer marketers and diversified operates with fruits, vegetables, and livestock).
TITLE XII – MISCELLANEOUS
Subtitle A – Livestock
Sec. 12102 National Animal Health Laboratory Network
The National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) forms part of a nationwide strategy to coordinate the work of all organizations providing animal disease surveillance and testing services. The bill provides appropriations for $30 million per year for fiscal years 2019-2023 (an increase from current authorization of $15 million per year).
Sec. 12103 National Animal Disease Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Program
The bill creates the National Animal Disease Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Program. National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank. Establishes a National Animal Disease Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Program to be carried out by USDA through cooperative agreements with partners from states, universities, industries and other entities to address animal health challenges. Establishes a National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank for acquiring vaccine and veterinary countermeasures needed to respond to devastating animal disease outbreaks. The program has no mandatory funding, rather it authorizes such sums as necessary.
Sec. 12104 Study on Livestock Dealer Statutory Trust
The bill requires a study on the feasibility of creating a Livestock Dealer Trust. The study will analyze the potential impacts such a trust would have on livestock producers, dealers, markets, financiers, and others in the livestock sector, specifically with regard to credit availability.
Subtitle C – Historically Underserved Producers and Limited Resource Producers
Sec. 12301 Farming Opportunities Training and Development
The bill combines the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Grant Program and the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Rancher and Veteran Farmer and Rancher Program into a new section titled the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program. The combination allows the programs to have permanent baseline so that they will no longer be orphaned at the end of each farm bill. The newly combined program sets award amounts for grants made through these programs at $250,000 for a maximum of three years. The bill provides $50 million in mandatory funding and $50 million in discretionary funding in fiscal year 2018 and each year thereafter. Under current law, BFRDP is funded at $20 million annually and Outreach programs are funded at $10 million. The $50 million will be split evenly between the programs. The administration for each program will stay with their respective agencies even though they are drawing from the same funding source.
Sec. 12302 Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production
The bill establishes an Office and Director of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production to encourage and promote urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural production practices. It provides authority to award competitive grants to operate community gardens or nonprofit farms, educate a community on food systems, nutrition, environmental impacts, and agricultural production, and help offset start-up costs for new and beginning farmers. Larger grants will be made to qualified entities that will in turn split up the grant into smaller segments and provide it as start-up grants to qualified recipients. A 15-member Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Advisory Committee is created that draws from producers, lenders, academia, and other relevant stakeholders. The bill establishes two pilot projects to increase compost and reduce food waste, and create urban and the creation of suburban FSA county committees.
Sec. 12307 Availability of Department of Agriculture Programs for Veteran Farmers and Ranchers
The bill provides additional resources and benefits to veterans including FSA down payment loans, reduced interest rates on guaranteed loans, increased coverage under ELAP, reduced premiums and fees for the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, and increased educational focus from the Food Safety Outreach Program and the Federal Crop Insurance Education Program.
Subtitle D – Reorganization
Sec. 12406 Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development
The bill establishes the position of Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development. Currently, the USDA has an Assistant to the Secretary on Rural Development.
Sec. 12409 Natural Resources Conservation Service
If the Secretary wishes to close any NRCS office he must provide 60-day notice to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. The notification requirement also extends to relocating certain personnel employed within NRCS or the Rural Development mission area.
Subtitle E – Other Miscellaneous Provisions
Sec. 12504 Data on Conservation Practices
The bill takes portions of the Thune-Klobuchar data bill that NFU has previously been supportive of. The provisions create a secure data collection system through which USDA, pursuant to established privacy and confidentiality protocols, will allow for analysis, and review of data from various agencies regarding the impact of covered conservation practices on crop yields, soil health, and farm and ranch profitability. Protocols and procedures are established to allow for the collection of data from existing Departmental databases and for the voluntary submission of data from producers. A data warehouse will contain the data collected under this section that can be accessed by an academic institution or researcher. RMA will work with other agencies to conduct research and analyze how yield variability and risk are impacted by certain conservation practices. The end goal is to improve agriculture data research of conservation practices to help farmers reduce risk and increase profitability. USDA currently manages and stores valuable producer data, but the data can be better aggregated and utilized to inform producers’ understanding about which conservation practices reduce risk and improve profitability.
Sec. 12506 Study on Measuring Food Waste
The bill requires a study to calculate the methods of measuring food waste, the factors that create it, and the estimated amount of food waste and recommendations for reducing it.
Sec. 12509 Report on Personnel
Requires the Department to annually submit to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees a bi-annual report describing the number of staff years and employees employed for each agency of the Department. Given the aging nature of the USDA workforce, hiring freezes, and other factors, this will be an important tool to advocate for necessary personnel funding to better serve farmers and ranchers.
Sec. 12510 Report on Absent Landowners
The bill requires USDA to conduct a study on absent landlords within one year of enactment. In conducting the study, the Secretary shall consider certain impacts of absent landlords on land value, soil health, and economic viability and provide recommendations on how to mitigate these impacts.
Sec. 12608 Conforming Changes to Controlled Substances Act
Removes hemp from the definition of marihuana under the Controlled Substances Act.