Guest blog post by Amanda Hernandez, OEFFA Policy Intern
Earlier this month, the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Glenn “GT” Thompson, announced that Congress will have to temporarily extend the 2018 Farm Bill because it will miss the September 30 deadline for enacting its successor. If you are someone who produces or eats food, this extension is extremely vital.
In brief, the farm bill is a piece of legislation that is renewed every five years and affects our entire food system. It encompasses a variety of programs, from farm subsidies to food assistance. There are two deadlines within the farm bill—the first being September 30, which is the end of the fiscal year (FY), and the second is December 31 which is the end of the crop year. These dates are of high importance because some programs may expire after the FY deadline, while others expire after the crop year.
So, What Happens if the Farm Bill Expires?
For some agricultural programs, the farm bill’s expiration leads to the reversion of permanent (previous) laws. The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 and the Agricultural Act of 1949 are considered “permanent” laws and when the farm bill is passed every five years it supersedes these two previous laws. The crops that fall under these laws are dairy, wheat, rice, cotton, and corn. According to a report published on August 21 by the Congressional Research Service, if, for example, a new farm bill is not passed by the end of the crop year, then on January 1, 2024, the USDA is required to support these eligible commodities at levels that exceed 2023 market prices. For example, the USDA would have to buy milk at $50.70 per 100 pounds which is more than 2.5 times the current market price.
Congress can extend certain programs by passing separate funding bills to give agencies funding for ongoing operations. Other programs in the farm bill receive mandatory funding. This is a really important point as those programs do not have to ask for funding during the annual appropriations process when Congress decides which priorities they choose to fund. There are two types of mandatory-funded programs—those with baseline budgets and those without. A program without a baseline budget imposes budgetary costs that require authorization or an extension from Congress to continue.
For instance, in 2008, Congress enacted a one-year extension of the farm bill, but it was required to be “budget-neutral.” This led to Congress not extending the mandatory funding for programs without a baseline budget. Below are some of the major programs within the 2018 Farm Bill and how not having a new farm bill in place will affect them.
Breakdown of Programs
Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP)
Policy provisions that will expire at the end of the fiscal year:
- Livestock funding
- Payment limits
- Organic payment limits
Policy provisions that are extended until fiscal year 2031:
- Wildlife habitat funding
- Air quality funding
- On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Programs that are permanently authorized and funded:
- Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP)
- Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP)
Programs that could continue IF funding is provided in appropriations acts:
- SNAP and related grant programs (i.e., work training)
- Purchase and distribution of The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) commodities
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
- Nutrition assistance funding for Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands
- Community food projects
Programs that would require extension or specific appropriations language:
- Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
Potentially Stranded Programs
Programs that may not have the authority to operate or continue to receive new budget authority after the fiscal year 2023:
Title III: Trade
- Market Access Program (MAP)
- Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program
- Emerging Markets Program (EMP) and technical assistance for specialty crops
Title VII: Research
- Organic Agricultural Research and Extension Initiative (OREI)
Title IX: Energy
- Biobased Market Program
Title X: Horticulture
- Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
- Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP)
- National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program
Title XII: Miscellaneous
- Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) Program
- Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (“2501 Program”)
- Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP)
- Animal disease prevention and management programs
- Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund
Using the Delay to Your Advantage
Considering the farm bill affects everyone in the food system, please let your members of Congress know what is important to you and what you want given priority within the 2023 Farm Bill. Take advantage of this critical window of opportunity by making your voice heard! Visit action.oeffa.org/your-farm-bill to access fact sheets, talking points, and other resources to support your advocacy efforts.