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07

By Ben Husch

Earlier today from Michigan St. University, President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill) into law. The signing marks an end to the multi-year and multi-bill process for reauthorizing the 2008 Farm Bill, which initially expired September 2012, and was then extended until September 2013. The bill passed the House 251-166 on Jan. 29; the Senate approved it 68-32 on Feb. 4. Overall, the 2014 Farm Bill extends most of the major federal farm and nutrition assistance programs through FY 2018, at a cost of $956 billion over 10 years according to the Congressional Budget Office.

farm house and fieldWhile the bill totals over 950 pages, below is a brief analysis of some of the state focused programs. For a complete review of the major and minor issues please click here.

Preserving State Authority

The 2014 Farm Bill does not include the “King Amendment,” which was sponsored by Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) and was included in the House version. The provision would have significantly pre-empted states’ abilities to protect the safety and well being of their farmland, waterways, forests and most importantly, the health and welfare of their constituents. See NCSL’s King Amendment letter for additional information on NCSL’s position.

Increasing Specialty Crop Block Grant Program Funding

Based on the growth of specialty crops (fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, nursery plants and honey) over the past few years, the bill increases funds for the Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) program from $55 million in FY 2013 to $72.5 million for FY 2014 through 2017 and $85 million for FY 2018.

Continuing Payments in Lieu of Taxes

After being withheld from the FY 2014 budget, the 2014 Farm Bill includes full mandatory FY 2014 funding for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program at $425 million. This represents an increase compared to FY 2013, when funding was $401 million post sequestration. PILT provides federal payments to local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable Federal lands within their boundaries.

Reauthorizing Disaster Assistance

In what is likely to be a very welcome sign for those states affected by severe conditions this winter, the 2014 Farm Bill reauthorizes and modifies certain disaster assistance programs, including the Livestock Indemnity Payments, Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish, and the Tree Assistance Program.

Consolidating Conservation Programs

Conservation programs were consolidated from 23 existing programs into 13. Additionally, the bill includes provisions that require the implementation of specific conservation measures by farmers and ranchers in order to qualify for federal crop insurance subsidies.

Initiating Industrial Hemp Research

Finally, the bill allows institutions of higher education and state departments of agriculture to cultivate hemp for research purposes in states that have approved the practice of industrial hemp farming.

Please contact Ben Husch (202-624-7779) if you need additional information on any of the agricultural items covered in the 2014 Farm Bill. Additionally, for those questions pertaining to SNAP or other nutrition issues, please contact Joy Wilson (202-624-8689) or Rachel Morgan (202-624-3569).

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Ben Husch is the NCSL committee director for the Natural Resources and Infrastructure Committee

 

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.

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