To: NAWG Officers, Directors, State Executives
From: NAWG Staff
Date: December 11, 2018
Re: NAWG 2018 Farm Bill Conference Report Summary
On Monday, December 10, 2018, the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committee announced that a sufficient number of House and Senate conferees had signed the Farm Bill conference report and that it had been formally filed in the House of Representatives. The bill, H.R. 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, was expected to be called up for a vote in the Senate this afternoon and is expected to be up for a vote by the full House later this week.
Below we have prepared a summary of provisions important to wheat farmers through a title by title breakdown. Each section includes an overarching summary of highlights followed by a bullet-point breakdown of each relevant provision.
Title 1 – Commodities
The Commodity title includes several important provisions that will be beneficial for wheat growers. Specifically, farmers will have a re-election opportunity for the 2019 crop year which will apply for 2 years, and then they will have an annual option to choose a new program beginning with the 2021 crop year. Specific to the programs themselves, PLC is improved through a reference price escalator provision to enable reference prices to increase if market conditions improve, and all farmers will have an opportunity/option to update their payment yields. In ARC, the same reference price escalator will apply to the floor price, improvements are made to the yield component of the formula, RMA data will be used as the first data source where sufficient data is available, irrigated and non-irrigated yields will be published, the physical location of a farm will determine which county payment rate applies, and large counties would have the option to split into smaller administrative units. Additionally, ARC-Individual will continue to be an option for growers. A provision is included to remove farm program eligibility from farms that were only in grass between 2009-2017; however, after pushback from NAWG and others, this provision is much narrower than the original House provision, is limited to just the five years of the Farm Bill, and owners of those farms will have an opportunity to enroll those farms in a new Grassland Conservation Initiative. The wheat loan rate for purposes of Marketing Assistance Loans is increased 15 percent to $3.38 per bushel.
- ARC-County, ARC-Individual, and PLC are reauthorized
- Re-election opportunity (Section 1105)
- Farmers will have a re-election opportunity, on farm by farm and crop by crop basis, for the 2019 crop year, as well as a yearly election beginning in 2021
- Base acres (Section 1102)
- This provision requires that any farm that was planted entirely to grass or pasture between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2017, will be ineligible for farm program payments during the five-year period of the farm bill. It specifies that this ineligibility applies to cropland that was idle of fallow during that period. It notes that base acres and payment yields will be maintained on those farms, they will just be ineligible for ARC/PLC payments for the 2019-2023 crop years.
- A rough estimate we’ve heard is that this provision will impact roughly 2/3rds fewer base acres as compared to the original House provision
- For those farms that have base acres that have become ineligible for farm program payments, farmers can enroll those farms into a Grassland Conservation Initiative within CSP by undertaking a priority resource concern. Payments would be $18 per acre on those farms.
- PLC (Section 1106)
- Yield update (Section 1103)
- Owners of a farm (nationwide) will have a 1-time opportunity to update PLC yields on a commodity by commodity basis on the farm for which the election is made. There are limitations on the yield update. If the average yield for a farm in any year was less than 75 percent of the average of the county yield, than 75 percent is used. The yield update will begin to be eligible with the 2020 crop year.
- Reference price escalator (effective reference price defined in Section 1101)
- This provision would enable the PLC reference price to increase up to 15 percent if market prices improve sufficiently (parameters are defined in the bill)
- Requires that USDA publish payment rates within 30 days of the end of the marketing year for each commodity
- ARC (Section 1107)
- For counties in which an RMA crop insurance product is available, this provision requires that the RMA yield be used; if it’s not available, then USDA has flexibility in determining other sources of data or can use the yield history of representative farms in the state, region, or crop reporting district
- Requires of the use of the physical location of a farm to determine which county rate applies to that farm
- Plug yield is increased from 70 percent to 80 percent of the transitional yield
- Requires USDA to calculate and use a trend-adjusted yield factor to adjust yields, similar to the crop insurance trend-adjusted yield endorsement
- Requires the use of an effective reference price like in PLC, such that if market prices improve the floor price can increase
- Requires USDA to publish separate irrigated and nonirrigated yields in each county o Requires USDA to publish payment rate information within 30 days of the end of the marketing year for each commodity
o Publishing of data sources (Section 1107 (h))
- Requires USDA to publish for each crop year and each commodity information describing the ARC guarantee, the average historical county yield, the national average market price, and the actual average county yield. It also requires this information to be published for the 2018 crop year within 60 days of enactment. It also requires USDA to publish the data source used for each covered commodity by county and nationally, beginning with the 2018 crop year.
- Administrative units (Section 1107 (i))
- Counties that meet certain size requirements may be split into no more than 2 administrative units. The FSA state committee, in consultation with the county or area committee, has the option to make this one-time election to divide the county. Eligible counties must be larger than 1,400 square miles and contain more than 190,000 base acres; this provision is limited to 25 counties nationwide.
- Marketing loans (Subtitle B)
- Loan rates (Section 1202) – the wheat loan rate is increased from $2.94 to $3.38 per bushel (a 15 percent increase)
- Payment limitations (Section 1703)
- The bill maintains a hard cap of $125,000 per individual.
- The provision expands the definition of family members to include first cousins, nieces, and nephews.
- Marketing loan gains and loan deficiency payments would no longer be subject to the $125,000 payment cap.
- AGI threshold for eligibility (Section 1704)
- This provision maintains the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) threshold for farm program eligibility at $900,000
Title 2 – Conservation
The Conservation Title includes several provisions of interest to wheat growers. EQIP and CSP are modified to join the programs within the law and will continue to provide cost-share assistance to growers. Incentive payments are added to EQIP and CSP is modified to be based on overall funding, instead of acres. These changes to CSP will alter enrollment and re-enrollment, making those applications compete against each other. Funding for EQIP increases, but funding for CSP decreases which will result in a move toward consolidation of the programs. Additionally, a new Grasslands Initiative in CSP is available to those growers impacted by base acre suspension in Title 1. CRP is expanded to allow more acres but includes limitation on payments for general and continuous sign-up will limit rental payments. Signing Incentive Payments and Practice Incentive Payments will continue but will be decreased. CRP cost-share on seed cost will also be limited. These changes were required to be able to pay for the increased number of acres allowed into the CRP program. The bill does not contain CRP easements and does not include provisions on minimal effects determinations for wetlands conservation.
- Conservation Reserve Program (Sections 2201-2209)
- Gradual increase in acreage cap to 27 million acres
- At least 2 million acres of grasslands by 2023
- Continuous sign-up & CREP limited to 8 million acres in FY19 increasing to 8.6 million acres in FY22
- 85% of county rental rate for general sign-up
- 90% of county rental rates for continuous sign-up
- Signing Incentive Payments (SIPs) and Practice Incentive Payments (PIPs) continued, but lower
- Seed Cost Limitation set at 50% of actual cost of seed mixture
- Revised Haying and Grazing provisions
- CLEAR 30 (Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers) included as pilot program with 30 year contracts
- SHIPP (Soil Health Income Protection Program) included as a pilot program
- CRP TIP continued and funded at $50 million
- Re-enrollments in CRP are subject to additional reductions in rental payments
- Does not include easements
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (Section 2302-2307)
- incentive payments added
- EQIP – 50% livestock set aside retained o EQIP – 10% wildlife set aside
o Increased payment for high priority practices (determined by states)
o Funding from $1.75 billion in FY19 increasing to $2.025 billion in FY2013
- Conservation Stewardship Program (Sections 2308 – 2309)
- Current contract holders that would be eligible to renew in FY2019, will be allowed to renew under old program (only for these contract, not future expirations)
- CSP changed to be a dollar based, future re-enrollments would be competitive with new enrollments
- Funding from $700 million in FY2019 increasing to $1 billion in FY2023
- New Grassland Conservation Initiative specifically for those whose base was suspended in Title 1
- Must undertake conservation practice on the acres tied to suspended base
- $18 per acre payment rate
- Separate from any other CSP contract or EQIP contract
- Wetland Conservation (Sections 2101-2103)
- Does not include minimal effects determination provisions
- Includes funding for mitigation banking, and policy direction for on-site wetland determinations
Title 3- Trade
The trade title of the Farm Bill contains some changes that will be beneficial to wheat farmers. Specifically, the title created the Agricultural Trade Promotion and Facilitation program that will house the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development Program (FMD). FMD had lost baseline moving forward as a standalone program, so the creation of this umbrella program will allow it to have baseline moving forward. Additionally, there were some changes to the Food for Progress act that will not impact the current “commodity bucket” of funding.
- Section 3201- Agricultural Trade Promotion and Facilitation (MAP/FMD)
- The conference language adopts the Senate version for Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD). These two programs, along with Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) and Emerging Markets Program (EMP) under one umbrella program called the Priority Trade Promotion, Development and Assistance. This new program has annual mandatory funding set at $255 million. MAP is to receive no less than $200 million annually and FMD is to receive no less than $34.5 million annually (both are the current levels of funding). A Priority Trade Fund will receive $3.5 million per year and the Secretary will be given discretion to allocate among the programs.
- The conference language also allows the MAP and FMD programs to be used to improve exports to Cuba.
- Section 3302- Food for Progress Act of 1985
- The conference language adopts the House version for Food for Progress, which reauthorizes the program to FY 2023.
- The conference language requires that the Secretary will provide an annual report on “rate of return” for monetization programs.
- The conference language requires that a pilot program be authorized for FY 2019 which would allow financial assistance to be eligible to implementing partners, right now it is only commodities that are available. This will not come out of the current commodity bucket funding, but rather a pilot in addition to the commodity program.
Title 5- Credit
The credit title notably included large increases in overall authorization levels of loans for the years 2019 through 2023.
- Section 5302- Loan Authorization Levels
- Allows the Secretary to make or guarantee loans for no more than $10,000,000,000 for reach of the fiscal years 2019 through 2023.
- Authorizes 3,000,000,000 for direct loans with
- $1,500,000,000 for farm ownership loans
- $1,500,000,000 for operating loans
- Authorizes $7,000,000,000 for guaranteed loans of which:
- $3,500,000,000 for farm ownership loans
- $3,500,000,000 for operating loans.
Title 7- Research
The research title of the Farm Bill saw some big wins for wheat, particularly with regard to the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiation which received an overall increase in authorization from $10 million to $15 million and places a program specific limitation on Indirect Costs to be capped at 10%.
- Section 7303- Support for Research Regarding Disease of Wheat, Triticale, and Barley caused by
Fusarium Graninerum or Tilletia Indica
o NAWG supports continued funding for research of Fusarium head blight.
o US Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative received an increase in the authorization from $10 M to
$15M. (Current appropriated funding of the SCAB Initiative is at $9.45 M.)
o In addition, the Bill specifies a limitation on Indirect Costs by any recipient of a program grant from USWBSI to be capped at 10%.
- Section 7612- Simplified Plan of Work
- McIntire-Stennis, Hatch and Smith Lever funding has been maintained
- Call for States to match Federal Funding levels at local State Land Grant Colleges for Hatch. (Section 7614)
- Work requirements have been streamlined by deleting audits in favor of peer review oversight.
- McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research Act to include 1994 Institutions that offer an associate’s degree or a baccalaureate degree in forestry to be eligible for assistance for forestry research
- Section 12514- Report on Funding for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and other extension programs.
- Instructs that no later than 2 years after the 2017 Census of Agriculture is released under the Census of Agriculture Act of 1997, the Secretary submit to Congress a report describing the funding necessary to adequately address NIFA’s needs, activities, and ability to provide adequate services for the growth and development of the economies of rural communities based on the changing demographic in the rural and farming communities in the various States, paying particular attention to carrying out activities relating to small and diverse farms and ranches, veteran farmers and ranchers, value-added agriculture, direct-to-consumer sales, and specialty crops.
Title 11 – Crop Insurance
There are several positive provisions included in the crop insurance title. The top of the list is that it maintains the current strong structure of the crop insurance program by not imposing any means testing, cuts to the federal cost-share, or cuts to the delivery system. Additionally, it includes a requirement that RMA undertake research and development of alternative methods for adjusting for quality loss, reform to the 508(h) reimbursement process, enables growers to purchases separate policies for grazing and harvesting of crops, and language regarding how cover crops impact the insurability of summer fallow.
- Section 11107- Cover Crops
- Voluntary practice of cover cropping shall be considered a good farming practice under paragraph (3)(A)(iii) if the cover crop is terminated in accordance with subparagraph (B).
- Cover Crop termination shall not affect the insurability of a subsequently planted insurable crop if the cover crop is terminated in accordance with subparagraph (B).
- In a county in which summer fallow is an insurable practice, a cover crop in that county is terminated in accordance with subparagraph (B) shall be considered as summer fallow for the purpose of insurance
- Section 11109- Treatment of Forage and Grazing
- Catastrophic risk protection for crops and grasses used for grazing- crops that can be both grazed and mechanically harvested on the same acres during the same growing season, producers shall be allowed to purchase separate policies for each intended use, as determined by the Corporation, and any indemnity paid under those policies for each intended use shall not be considered to be for the same loss for the purposes of section 508(n)
- Section 11110- Administrative Basic Fee
- Up to $655
- Section 11111- Enterprise Units
- Producers may establish a single enterprise unit by combining an enterprise unit with
- 1 or more other enterprise units in 1 or more other counties or all basic units and all optional units in 1 or more other counties.
- Section 11112- Continued Authority
- Underwriting rules that limit the decrease in the actual production history of a producer, at
the election of the producer, to not more than 10 percent of the actual production history of the previous crop year provided that the production decline was the result of drought, flood, natural disaster, or other insurable loss (as determined by the Corporation); and
- Establish actuarily sound premiums to cover additional risk.
- Section 11120- Maintenance of Policies
- An applicant who submits a policy under section 508(h) shall be eligible for the reimbursement of reasonable research and development costs if the policy is approved by the Board for sale to producers.
- Reasonable costs shall be based on
- For any employees or contracted personnel, wage rates equal to not more than 2 times the hourly wage rate plus benefits, as provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the year in which such costs are incurred, calculated using the formula applied to an applicant by the Corporation in reviewing proposed project budgets under this section on October 1, 2016 an
- Other actual documented costs incurred by the applicant
- Section 11122- Research and Development Authority
- ‘‘(10) QUALITY LOSS.—
- ‘‘(A) IN GENERAL.—The Corporation shall carry out research and development, or offer to enter into 1 or more contracts with 1 or more qualified persons to carry out research and development, regarding the establishment of each of the following alternative methods of adjusting for quality losses:
- ‘‘(i) A method that does not impact the actual production history of a producer.
- ‘‘(ii) A method that provides that, in circumstances in which a producer has suffered a quality loss to the insured crop of the producer that is insufficient to trigger an indemnity payment, the producer may elect to exclude that quality loss from the actual production history of the producer.
- ‘‘(iii) 1 or more methods that combine the methods described in clauses (i) and (ii).
- ‘‘(B) REQUIREMENTS.—Notwithstanding subsections (g) and (m) of section 508, any method developed under subparagraph (A) that is used by the Corporation shall be—
- ‘‘(i) optional for a producer to use; and
- ‘‘(ii) offered at an actuarially sound premium rate.
- ‘‘(C) REPORT.—Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, the Corporation shall submit to the Committee on Agriculture of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry of the Senate a report that describes—
- ‘‘(i) the results of the research and development carried out under subparagraph (A); and
- ‘‘(ii) any recommendations with respect to those results
Title 12- Miscellaneous
- Section 12511- Precision Agriculture Connectivity
- Establishes a task force no later than one year of the date of enactment for the Federal Communications Commission to establish a Task Force for reviewing the Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture with the goal of identifying current gaps in broadband Internet Access service on agricultural land, develop policy recommendations for 95% of agricultural land to have broadband by 2025, and more.