After more than a year of work by those most interested in passing an on-time Farm Bill – farmers, ranchers and advocacy groups interested in sustainable agriculture, conservation and forestry – the 2014 Farm Bill expired at midnight on September 30, 2018. The expiration marks the second time in a row that the Farm Bill has expired without an extension.
What does this mean for landowners?
Several farm bill conservation programs – often called orphan programs – are in limbo. Funding for these programs is maintained, but without a farm bill extension, the USDA does not have the authority to use that funding. Existing contracts and payments will be honored, but don’t expect any new sign-ups or enrollments.
Examples of orphan programs:
- Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
- Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) – this includes renewals for those whose first contract expires this year
- Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
- Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) – funding is available until expended, so this program will not halt entirely until available funding is spent
- Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP)
For these and other programs left in the lurch, the USDA will not hold sign-ups until authorized to do so. This means that farmers and ranchers will not be able to work with the USDA to plan next year’s activities until later than normal, potentially making it difficult to implement conservation practices in 2019.
An exception of note is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). EQIP was reauthorized through the end of FY19 in the March omnibus. This is good news since EQIP is a popular conservation program across the West. Additionally, most commodity programs are tied to the crop year, not the fiscal year, and funding for those programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) remains in place. Any program that maintains funding will adhere to the provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill.
The House is in recess for the month of October, so it is unlikely there will be movement on the 2018 Farm Bill until after midterm elections. However, it is our hope that Senate and House Agriculture Leaders will work diligently to ensure that programs whose funding ends at the end of 2018 will not be left unfunded. Continued funding could occur through a short-term extension of the 2014 Farm Bill or through passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.
Western Landowners Alliance will continue to advocate for a new farm bill, passed this year, that improves landowner opportunities to implement conservation practices, improve forest management and achieve sustainable agriculture.
Send any questions about this or other policy updates posted by WLA to Jessica Crowder, WLA Policy Director: firstname.lastname@example.org.