How the 2018 US Farm Bill Affects More Than Your Dinner Table

By: Alex Kisielewski

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While the December 20 signing of the $428 billion US Farm Bill might not be the main topic getting attention in your news feed, it’s a piece of legislation that has major impact on everyday lives. The bill gets revamped about every 5 years since its inaugural version was signed into law in 1933 as a way to support farmers who were hurting from the Great Depression. On average, it takes 2 years for the farm bill to be shaped into its final form, which entails congressional representatives meeting with trade organizations, farm lobbyists, and civil society organizations as well as regional and local town hall meetings.

Here’s a snapshot of the key impacts of the 2018 Farm Bill:

Major wins:

  • Industrial Hemp is Legal!

The 2018 Farm Bill has excluded CBD (cannabidiol) from the Controlled Substances Act and made it legal to manufacture, distribute, and sell CBD products in the United States. Many view this as a major milestone since some consider CBD to have medical benefits, treating symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, depression, and anxiety.

  • Protection for SNAP Benefits are Preserved!

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP), the federal program that provides millions of Americans with a safety net to make sure they meet basic nutritional needs, account for 76% of 2018 Farm Bill spending. Although the House’s version tried to tighten the requirements for receiving SNAP benefits by increasing the minimum hours of work or job training to 25 hours per week (from the current 20) and expanding requirements for able-bodied adults 18 to 59 (currently 18 to 49), the final version of the bill rejected these changes.

Among legalization of hemp and unchanged SNAP benefits, the 2018 Farm Bill also:

  • continues to provide farmers with certainty and risk management insurance tools for their crops (especially during times of low commodity pricing or if high international trade tariffs are enacted)

  • permits substantial increases in funding for research on organic agriculture

  • allocates funding for conservation efforts, including protecting wetlands, enhancing wildlife and reducing soil erosion

  • provides support for younger farmers by increasing the limits on operating and farm ownership loans they can use to invest in new farms and subsidizing organizations that train the next generation of farmers

Overall, the 2018 Farm Bill has set up a positive framework to move toward a more sustainable agricultural system. Luckily, BFC makes it easy for its owners to support the type of grocery shopping that supports farmers and the environment.

Alex Kisielewski is on a mission to tackle food waste, industrial agriculture, and climate change through her passion for event planning, writing, and network building.