By Tyson Redpath, The Russell Group
Capping a year-long process to reauthorize federal food and agriculture policy, the U.S. House of Representatives today approved a new, five-year farm bill with a vote of 369-47 following Senate approval on Tuesday. Pending the signature of President Trump, the legislation will become law.
Included in the comprehensive agriculture policy covering 2019-2023 are the two highest priorities of the California Rice Commission. Specifically, the legislation includes a higher reference price for temperate japonica rice, and clear direction to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to adhere to 10-year contract terms for wildlife habitat management practices under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
The new law will allow growers to update payment yields once but not base acres. Loan rates for a number of commodities are increased including for rice going from $6.50 to $7.00. Growers will be permitted to make a new election between Price Loss Coverage and the Agriculture Risk Coverage program. Moreover, beginning with crop year 2021 and covering 2022 and 2023, growers will be allowed to make an annual election of either the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program or the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program.
Importantly, the definition of family is expanded for purposes of farm program eligibility to include nephews, nieces and cousins. Tighter restrictions and lower payment limits were left out of the final legislation.
Now poised to become law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will move swiftly to implement the new farm bill with expected announcements soon in the new year indicating grower sign-up periods.