New farm bill provides hope for Virginia farmers

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RICHMOND—The 2018 Farm Bill is set to become law, and President Trump is expected to sign it this afternoon.

It’s been two years in the making, but farmers will have to wait a little bit longer before it’s put into effect.

“Once the president signs the bill it is law, but it still must be implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the states and other federal agencies,” explained Ben Rowe, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation national affairs coordinator. He said federal agencies like the USDA can take months to process new regulations.

“It’s great news for Virginia farmers, because they are facing increasing uncertainty with our international trade partners and increasing tariffs, all paired with several years of decreased commodity prices,” Rowe continued. “So a farm bill gives them five years of certainty for things like crop insurance, dairy assistance and commodity programs, as well as trade promotion funding.”

The House of Representatives passed the legislation on Dec. 12 after the Senate had approved the conference bill the day before. The farm bill generally is approved every five years and sets national farm policy for farmers and consumers.

More than half of the $867 billion bill supports supplemental nutrition assistance programs. The bill also reauthorizes crop insurance and conservation programs; funds trade promotion programs and bioenergy and organic farming research; and legalizes the cultivation of industrial hemp.

Rowe said Virginia’s dairy farmers are hopeful the new legislation will benefit them. Like dairy farmers across the country, Virginia milk producers have been struggling to stay in business the past year as wholesale milk prices have remained below the cost of production.

“The 2018 Farm Bill establishes a dairy safety net for small, medium and large dairy farmers,” he said. “Farmers also can participate in a dairy revenue protection program and the dairy margin coverage on the same milk production.” The USDA programs offer a form of price insurance for producers, he explained. 

“As part of the Milk Donation Program, dairy farmers can now partner with food banks and other charitable feeding programs to donate milk for those in need and to reduce food waste,” Rowe added.

Conservation programs that offer payments to landowners for setting aside farmland to protect the environment or water quality are funded at the same level as in the past farm bill. Rental payment rates, however, have been reduced, while the amount of land accepted into the Conservation Reserve Program expanded. That change strikes a good balance, Rowe said, because in the past some producers were unable to compete with CRP farmland rents for available cropland.

Media: Contact Rowe at 804-290-1017 or Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.

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