On Sept. 30, the 2014 Farm Bill expired. Now, with Congress in recess until November, there are only a few short months to get a new Farm Bill done before the end of 2018.
American Farmland Trust cannot express strongly enough how important it is for this to happen.
With the lapse of the Farm Bill last week comes negative consequences for vital programs that support America’s farmers and ranchers.
Without a new Farm Bill, the popular and oversubscribed Agricultural Conservation Easement Program — which provides cost-share assistance to qualified entities to permanently protect agricultural lands — is in flux, with no new funding. Other programs, such as the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, and the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, to name a few, have formally expired. Important new initiatives in House and Senate bills that AFT has supported — better alignment between conservation practices and federal crop insurance, addressing heirs property, and new data collection and analysis around farmland ownership, tenure and transfer trends — will not be enacted.
One of AFT’s main efforts for the 2018 Farm Bill will continue to be securing additional funding for and improvements to the ACEP program. AFT is pushing to increase funding for ACEP to $500 million annually (from $250 million), which the House bill does. This level of funding is a critical first step in addressing program demand. At the current funding level, USDA estimates that it only will be able to fund 7 percent of ACEP applications.
If Congress fails to act on the Farm Bill before the end of the year, many important programs that provide farmers and ranchers with opportunities to protect their land, address environmental concerns, expand markets, and improve profitability will end. This will have significant, negative consequences for many farmers and ranchers, and the communities in which they live.
Take action and tell Congress: Get a bipartisan Farm Bill that supports farmers and protects farmland done before the end of 2018.
Cris Coffin is the Senior Policy Advisor at American Farmland Trust.