The 2018 Farm Bill was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law on December 20, 2018. This $867 billion package was approved by the Senate in an 87-to-13 vote and then approved by the House of Representatives in a 386-to-47 vote. Ongoing pressure from farmers and ranchers facing low commodity prices urged Congress to pass the new law with widespread support.
With the passage of the new Farm Bill come no drastic changes to federal crop insurance funding or commodity programs. Improvements to programs like Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) keep crop insurance affordable and more widely available, especially for farmers with more diverse operations.
“The new Farm Bill is basically a renewal of the old farm bill, with some enhancements. It’s essentially the status quo for the core crop insurance program,” said FMH President & CEO Ron Rutledge.
Other provisions in the Farm Bill legalize industrial hemp, allowing producers to now have federal farm program benefits. The new bill also expands Dairy Margin Coverage to make the program more accessible for small-scale dairy producers and reduce premiums.
“They expanded the eligibility for farm subsidies, legalized hemp, and allowed for the expansion of dairy support,” said Rutledge. “This Farm Bill has something in it for everyone, and they got it done on time for the first time since 1990.”
These measures come amidst a struggling farm economy. The USDA Economic Research Service reports that net farm income, an overall measure of profits, has decreased 12.1 percent from $66.3 billion in 2017 to $57.2 billion in 2018, which equals a decrease of $9.1 billion.
According to recent comments about the 2018 Farm Bill published by the National Crop Insurance Services, “The new law keeps crop insurance affordable and widely available for agriculture, and it provides much-needed certainty heading into 2019.”
With the challenges facing producers, continued protection for crop insurance – along with increased coverage – is a crucial tool to help the agriculture sector weather natural and economic risks. Despite the difficult farm economy outlook, several Farm Bill measures provide more opportunities for both those that use crop insurance and those that provide it.