What’s In the Newly-Signed Federal Farm Bill?

With the President signing the long-sought federal “farm bill,” its many provisions will affect counties, and many other stakeholders beyond farmers, significantly.

From the NACo website, an effective rundown of the process toward a successful outcome, and some highlights of county-friendly provisions:

Throughout the farm bill process, NACo helped draft bill text and amendments to preserve and promote key county priorities. Specifically, the final package creates a new Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) grant program, reinstates the Undersecretary for Rural Development and codifies the interagency Council on Rural Community Innovation and Economic Development.

Additional provisions include language that would allow counties with regional jails to exclude incarcerated individuals from population caps for funding eligibility under USDA Rural Development programs and a provision that allows counties to use USDA broadband loans and grants for middle-mile projects, which is prohibited under current law.

The final package also excluded several provisions that could have adversely impacted county governments, including a provision that would have prevented local governments from enforcing local food product regulations, language to prevent states and local governments from implementing pesticide permit programs and verbiage that would have made some counties ineligible for broadband funding under USDA’s Rural Utilities Service programs.

Additionally, the nutrition title of the conferenced farm bill – which accounts for roughly 75 percent of overall spending within the package – did not include proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), which could have resulted in more than two million individuals losing or seeing a reduction in their SNAP benefits.

NACo has also provided a section-by-section analysis of county effects, including a number of far-reaching rural development components hard-fought by NACo and other stakeholders.

The Washington Post covered the December 20 bill signing:

President Trump signed into law Thursday an $867 billion farm bill that provides billions in aid to U.S. farmers while rejecting deep cuts to the federal food stamp programs sought by some House Republicans.

“We have to take care of our farmers and ranchers, and we will take care of them,” Trump said at the signing ceremony, going on to praise congressional Democrats for what he called their hard work on the bill.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties