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May 1, 2018  |  Written by Richard S. Deitchman

641 Pages: Key Water and Environmental Provisions in H.R. 2, aka Farm Bill 2018

Farm Bill 2018 has passed out of the Congressional House Agriculture Committee and the pundits anticipate several months of intense debate mainly relating to modifications to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka food stamps).  Nevertheless, the current version of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2 or “Farm Bill 2018”), includes several noteworthy water and environmental terms.  Along with authorizing farm policy and mandatory funding, H.R. 2 sets the stage for future appropriations through 2023.

The farm bill is the United States’ primary food and agriculture omnibus, and requires reauthorization approximately every four-six years.  The Agriculture Act of 2014, the current farm bill, is set to expire on September 30, 2018.  Farm Bill 2018 will include provisions with potential impacts on water and environmental issues relating to agriculture for at least the next half decade.  While lengthy (641 pages), H.R. 2 provides significant funding across farmlands in America to assist resolving current issues in the agricultural community.  Oversight for the farm bill is by the House Committee on Agriculture, and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

Notable water and environmental provisions in the current version of Farm Bill 2018 include the following:

  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

Farm Bill 2018 maintains authorization for EQIP and increases funding to $3 billion per year through fiscal year 2023.  EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that provides funding for Natural Resource Conservation Service-approved conservation practices.

  • Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), and the Small Watershed Rehabilitation Program (SWRP)

Farm Bill 2018 reauthorizes the RCPP ($250 million/year), the ACEP, and SWRP with some modifications.  The SWRP reauthorization includes $100 million and the opportunity for use of funds through the Commodity Credit Corporation.

  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

The bill increases the number of eligible CRP acres from $25 million in fiscal year 2019 to $29 million in fiscal year 2023.  However, H.R. 2 currently includes caps on rental rates, in order to expand acreage under the program.  This may result in reduced payments for enrolled landowners.

  • Grassroots Source Water Protection (GSWP)

Farm Bill 2018 extends authorization for the GSWP program, with an additional $5 million of funding.  The GSWP seeks to protect communities from source water pollution through local, voluntary practices employed by agricultural producers.  Funding through this bill helps pay for efforts to improve water quality.

  • Wetland Mitigation Banking Program

The bill includes $5 million in direct additional funding for wetland mitigation banking, as well as authorization to use $10 million from the Commodity Credit Corporation.

  • Crop Insurance

Title X of Farm Bill 2018 includes crop insurance provisions, which includes the opportunity to update yields in counties impacted by drought.

Conclusion

Farm Bill 2018 is a lengthy bill with numerous provisions impacting most aspects of food and agriculture.  Title II (Conservation) and Title X (Crop Insurance) are likely to most significantly impact water and environmental-related farm practices.  It is important for water users to pay close attention to Farm Bill 2018 as it proceeds through Congress, including potential funding opportunities for local conservation practices.  The next step will focus on a full hearing in the House, and then proceedings to Senate committees and review before potential passage.  To ensure your issues in the farm bill are adequately addressed, watching the debate closely is recommended.

A copy of the current text of Farm Bill 2018 is available here.

For more information on Farm Bill 2018, please contact Richard S. Deitchman at (916) 446-7979 or rdeitchman@somachlaw.com.

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