Why the U.S. Farm Bill Matters to Counties – A NACo Guide

The 2023 U.S. Farm Bill reauthorization process can be complicated, but the National Association of Counties has a primer to walk county governments through the process and what to expect.

The National Association of Counties (NACo) has provided a primer on the 2023 Farm Bill to break down its importance for county governments and step readers through the reauthorization process in an easy-to-read way.  Resources in the primer include highlights of programs of interest, a legislative outlook, and instructions for counties on how to access funds.

According to the NACo primer:

Last authorized for five years in 2018 as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-334), the 2018 Farm Bill was a major piece of bipartisan legislation that authorized $428.3 billion for a broad range of USDA programs important to counties.

According to the USDA Economic Research Service, roughly 75 percent of funding went toward mandatory nutrition programs, with the remainder largely made up by the Crop Insurance, Conservation and Commodities titles as shown in the figure (on right).

Through loans and loan guarantees, federal formulas and direct competitive grant programs, the law contains programs that assist counties and county residents in rural development efforts, nutrition assistance programs, conservation initiatives, renewable energy deployment, support for new farmers and ranchers, and business development initiatives.

Projected outlays under the 2018 Farm Act, 2019–23
Source: USDA, Economic Research Service based on Congressional Budget Office, Direct Spending Effects for the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, December 11, 2018.

Counties support full funding for each title of the Farm Bill that address key areas like commodity programs for our nation’s agriculture producers, conservation and forestry needs, and nutrition, credit and rural development initiatives.

In the 2018 Farm Bill, NACo was successful in advocating for several provisions, including:

  • Securing the permanent reinstatement of the Undersecretary of Rural Development for the USDA, who oversees the over $200 billion USDA Rural Development portfolio
  • Establishing the Rural Innovation Stronger Economy Grant Program, which helps counties strengthen the local economy through partnerships with the private sector and institutions of higher education
  • Including $350 million for the deployment of rural broadband through initiatives such as the ReConnect Program, the Community Connect Program, and the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee Program

With the current legislation set to expire on September 30, 2023, the U.S. Congress is working to draft a new, five-year Farm Bill with congressional hearings already underway to determine public and private stakeholders’ priorities for the reauthorization.

Through congressional testimony and ongoing negotiations with U.S. House and Senate staff, the National Association of Counties (NACo) is working to preserve and expand county priorities in the 2023 Farm Bill, including:

  • Rural broadband deployment
  • Increased resources for rural water & wastewater
  • Tools to facilitate strategic planning and economic development
  • Rural capacity building

Read the rest of NACo’s Farm Bill primer for more information on the legislative outlook of the bill, programs of interest, and how to access funds for your county.