The farm bill connects our food, our farms, and our natural resources. This massive piece of legislation is essential to ensuring a safe and sustainable food supply while supporting programs that strengthen our communities and economies. Up for renewal in 2023, the farm bill conversations have begun, and now is the time to think through our needs as farmers and ranchers. This introductory article is the first of a farm bill series produced by the Colorado Farm Bureau, and we hope these insights provide a helpful perspective as the policy process moves forward so we can better represent you along the way.
Every five years, the farm bill expires and must be renewed after a lengthy proposal, debate, and legislative process in the nation’s Capitol. The latest iteration of the farm bill, titled the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, is set to expire on September 30th, 2023. The very first farm bill was passed during the New Deal era of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s time in office and was created to protect farmers and consumers from unfair prices, maintain a sufficient food supply, and protect the country’s natural resources. While the farm bill has changed throughout its lifetime, these priorities still serve as the bill’s backbone.
The farm bill funds programs, farms, and food-related initiatives across the country. Once passed, the bill is primarily managed and administered by the United States Department of Agriculture. While the core values of the bill remain, an ever-evolving world has forced Congress to expand the reach of the legislation to address more and more industry, economic, and social needs. However, the farm bill still has its roots in supporting commodity production. These commodities include corn, cotton, wheat, soybeans, rice, dairy, peanuts, and sugar. Farm bills have recently included nutrition assistance, conservation, research, specialty crops, and bioenergy programs. The expansive nature of the bill brings together stakeholders from nearly every industry and creates an opportunity for legislators and the public to create a comprehensive piece of legislation unlike any other.
The farm bill consists of chapters, called titles. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 had twelve, but these can change over time. The current titles of the farm bill are:
Title I: Commodities and Disaster
- The commodity title provides support to eligible producers by reauthorizing and improving commodity, marketing loans, sugar, dairy, and disaster programs.
Title II: Conservation
- The conservation title provides voluntary conservation programs that farmers and ranchers use to improve their productivity and address natural resource and, increasingly, environmental concerns.
Title III: Trade
- Post-World War II and post-Korean War conditions in agriculture created a need to focus on trade and trade development programs.
Title IV: Nutrition
- First created with the Food Stamp Act of 1964, the nutrition title is a pillar in farm bill discussions, of particular interest to urban voters and their representatives.
Title V: Credit
- The credit title of the farm bill provides lending opportunities that private commercial entities cannot offer.
Title VI: Rural Development
- The rural development title has held a spot in the farm bill since 1973 with the purpose to create and support new competitive advantages in rural areas.
Title VII: Research
- When the United States Department of Agriculture was created in 1862 it was primarily charged to support agricultural research. Serving, technically, as the oldest title of the farm bill, stemming from the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, the purpose was to establish and fund research in land grant institutions in each state.
Title VIII: Forestry
- First created in the 2002 farm bill, the forestry title provides authority for the United States Forest Service, which is the principal federal forest management agency.
Title IX: Energy
- Renewable energy, primarily ethanol and biodiesel production, was spurred through the Renewable Fuel Standard, which is not included in the farm bill. However, it created interest in the development of farm bill programs regarding energy.
Title X: Horticulture
- The horticulture title is designated to specifically support specialty crops and certified organic and local foods.
Title XI: Crop Insurance
- The crop insurance title provides new and continued insurance products for producers to purchase in a public-private partnership. The insurance helps protect producers against losses resulting from price and yield risks on over 445 million acres, in addition to a growing assortment of policies for animal agriculture.
Title XII: Miscellaneous
- The miscellaneous title holds a variety of programs. In most cases, these programs either do not have a “home title” or are individual programs to address specific problems. In the 2018 farm bill, the miscellaneous title primarily focused on livestock programs, agriculture and food defense, historically underserved producers, limited-resource producers, and other miscellaneous provisions.
The farm bill is essential to ensuring that our nation’s food supply remains safe, stable, and secure. It provides services to rural communities and those struggling with hunger, and it works to protect the natural resources that the global food system depends on.
As farmers and ranchers, we depend on the farm bill for protection and aid in an ever-changing world. Marketing loans, disaster relief programs, crop insurance products, and commodity programs provide us with the stability we need when times get tough and help to ensure future generations can continue our farming and ranching legacies. As we move closer to the proposal of a new farm bill, we must consider today’s needs and those of the future. Congress needs to hear our voice as only then will the farm bill continue to rightfully serve the constituents it is designed to serve. Thankfully, the American Farm Bureau Federation has convened its Farm Bill Working Group with representation from Colorado and all other 49 states. As members, it is our responsibility to think through what works for us, what doesn’t, and what we need from the next farm bill as we continue our mission to feed our nation and the world.
Colorado Farm Bureau is collecting stories from farmers and ranchers about the importance of the farm bill. Please click here to tell us why the farm bill is important to you. These answers will help us better advocate on your behalf.