Farm Bill Policy
The United States addresses agricultural and food policy through a variety of programs, including commodity support, nutrition assistance, and conservation. The primary legal framework for agricultural policy is set through a legislative process that occurs approximately every 5 years.
The current farm law, the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Act), was signed on February 7, 2014, and will remain in force through 2018—and in the case of some provisions, beyond 2018. The 2014 Farm Act makes major changes in commodity programs, adds new crop insurance options, streamlines conservation programs, modifies some provisions of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and expands programs for specialty crops, organic farmers, bioenergy, rural development, and beginning farmers and ranchers.
The Farm Bill At-A-Glance
The Farm Bill. The “Farm Bill” is the nickname for the Acts passed approximately every five year by Congress that addresses agricultural and food policy through a variety of programs, including commodity support, nutrition assistance and conservation. These programs account for the majority of the spending authorized in the Bill (about 79% in the 2014 Farm Bill), but funding for agricultural science is also included. Although such funding makes up a small percentage of total Farm Bill authorizations, the funding authorized for agricultural science in the Farm Bill is the primary source for USDA’s support of research and extension.
Science funding in the Farm Bill. The 2014 Farm Bill’s research and extension authorizations include funding and policy guidance for USDA programs like the National Institute for Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA’s) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the non-competitive “capacity” or “formula” funds dedicated to land-grant universities, and other programs like the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), which was given $200 million in 2014 to foster collaborations between the public and private sectors through matched grants.
The next Farm Bill has not yet been finalized. As plans for the 2018 Farm Bill begin to take shape, the DC Policy Office and the ASA, CSSA and SSSA Farm Bill Task Force are compiling a strategy favorable for agronomy, crop and soil science. We hope you will participate by completing this survey, and we invite you to share your thoughts and experiences with us as we work to best represent your interests.
The Farm Bill contains “titles” that matter for science funding. There are twelve “titles” in the Farm Bill, each like its own separate bill. The two that matter most for agricultural science are Title 7 and Title 2.
- Title 7 covers “Research, Extension, and Related Matters.” The total budget for this title in 2014 was $8 billion, and it includes a collection of mandatory and discretionary funds supporting agriculture research, cooperative extension, and state level agricultural education. For example, Title 7 includes $200 million mandatory funding for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and $80 million for specialty crop research. It also includes discretionary authorizations for programs like USDA AFRI. The 2014 Farm Bill authorized AFRI at $700 million, but because this is a discretionary program, it was subject to the annual appropriation process. Only $350 million was appropriated in the FY2016 budget, but an additional $25 million was recently appropriated in the FY2017 budget.
- Title 2 covers “Conservation.” The total budget for this title is $28.165 billion, including land retirement and easement programs, programs that incentivize farmers to implement conservation practices, and it sponsors community organizations that provide technical conservation assistance. The Title also outlines conservation requirements for participation in crop insurance programs.
2018 Farm Bill Hearings