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H.R. 2: Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018

Dec 11, 2018 at 3:58 p.m. ET. On the Conference Report in the Senate.

This was a vote to pass H.R. 2 (115th) in the Senate.

See the Congressional Research Service's 122-page summary of the bill.

H.R. 2 amends and extends major programs for income support, food and nutrition, land conservation, trade promotion, rural development, research, forestry, horticulture, and other miscellaneous programs administered by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for five years through 2023. The bill is budget neutral and $112 billion below baseline funding. A summary provided by the Committee on Agriculture can be found here. Specifically, the legislation:

Title I: Commodities

  • Continues the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) programs with modifications, and discontinues the Agricultural Risk Coverage-Individual Coverage option. Producers will have a one-time choice between PLC and ARC, made on a farm-by-farm and commodity-by-commodity basis. A list of reference prices can be found on page 172 of the Committee Report.
  • Seed cotton policy enacted in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 is maintained
  • Establishes an Effective Reference Price for PLC, which is set as the higher of the statutory reference price or 85% of the Olympic average, not to exceed 115% of the statutory reference price.
  • Improves ARC by prioritizing the use of Risk Management Agency yield data, basing payment rates on the physical location of base acres, and establishing a separate irrigated and non-irrigated revenue guarantee in each county.
  • Reauthorizes nonrecourse loans for loan commodities for the 2019 to 2023 crop years and makes adjustments to Extra Long Staple cotton and the formula for upland cotton loan rates.
  • Reauthorizes sugar policy in current law
  • Renames the Margin Protection Program for dairy producers as the Dairy Risk Management Program and authorizes it through 2023. Adjustments to coverage levels and applicable premiums for Tier 1 covered production are made. A list of coverage levels can be found on page 173 of the Committee Report.
  • Modifies the formula used for Class I milk prices and reauthorizes the Dairy Forward Pricing Program, Dairy Indemnity Program, and Dairy Promotion and Research Program through 2023. The Dairy Product Donation program is repealed.
  • The Livestock Indemnity Program is improved and the Livestock Forage Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-Raised Fish, and the Tree Assistance Program are maintained. 
  • The $125,000 payment limit for combined ARC and PLC program assistance is maintained.
  • Defines “qualified pass through entity” to ensure that payment limitations and means testing are applied consistently across similar entity structures.
  • Requires the Secretary to ease regulatory burdens on producers by providing additional options for sharing data across the Department.

Title II: Conservation

  • Reforms the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to allow for an increased acreage cap of 29 million acres by 2023, while also reducing rental rates, cost-share, and incentive payments.
  • Continues commitment to working lands conservation by merging the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) while honoring existing CSP contracts.
  • Restores funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), provides increased funding for the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program and provides mandatory funding for the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program.
  • Simplifies the application process, program administration and flexibility for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), and removes an impediment to conservation adoption by eliminating SAM/DUNS requirements for conservation and commodity program participants.

Title III: Trade

  • Streamlines the Market Access Program, the Foreign Market Development Program, the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program, and the Emerging Markets Programs into one International Market Development Program with overall funding at $255 million per year.
  • Maintains in-kind food aid as the foundation of the Food for Peace Program and reauthorizes Food for Peace at $2.5 billion annually.
  • Updates food aid labeling requirements to ensure US generosity is appropriately conveyed on packaging
  • Reauthorizes Food for Progress to continue non-emergency development assistance focused on improving agricultural productivity in developing countries.
  • Reauthorizes the John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer Program, reauthorizes the Local and Regional Food Aid Procurement Program, maintains the Cochran Fellowship Program, reauthorizes the Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship, reauthorizes U.S. contributions to the Global Crop Diversity Trust, and reauthorizes the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust.

Title IV: Nutrition

  • Expands the piloted National Accuracy Clearinghouse to create a nationwide Duplicative Enrollment Database.

  • Requires states to collect and submit SNAP participation data to the Duplicative Enrollment Database.

  • Amends the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program to include a training, evaluation, and information center, and provides $65 million in annual funding by 2023.

  • Excludes up to $500 of the Basic Allowance for Housing for active-duty military families from any calculation of income or resources when determining eligibility to participate in SNAP.

  • Modernizes and increases asset limits to $7,000 for those households without an elderly or disabled members and $12,000 for households with an elderly or disabled member.

  • Allow SNAP applicants to maintain up to $2,000 in a savings account that would not be counted toward the applicant’s assets for purposes of eligibility determination.

  • Beginning in Fiscal Year 2021, eliminates the treatment of Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents as a targeted subgroup from other work-capable adults. The bill also establishes a work requirement for work-capable adults (aged 18-59), with exemptions for the caretaker of a child, those who are pregnant, and those who are mentally or physically disabled. For at least 20 hoursper week, work-capable individuals must work, participate in a work program, or participate in SNAP Employment and Training.

Title V: Credit

  • Amends the Farm Ownership Loan Program to grant the Secretary enhanced flexibility to allow military experience or agricultural education to qualify for a portion of a 3-year farming or ranching experience requirement to become an eligible borrower. 
  • Reauthorizes the Conservation Loan and Loan Guarantee Program, the Farm Ownership and Operating Loans and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Accounts Program.
  • Reserves Loan Fund Set-Asides and extends the State Agricultural Mediation Programs

Title VI: Rural Development

  • Creates new broadband standards and provides new incentives for borrowers to develop high-speed broadband networks.
  • Reauthorizes mental health services for farmers and ranchers
  • Provides all rural communities access to guaranteed lending programs that finance critical infrastructure projects
  • Provides assistance to farm and ranch organizations to establish association health plans for their members
  • Reauthorizes successful energy programs and adjusts eligibility requirements for the Rural Energy Savings Program, expands project eligibility for biorefinery and biobased product manufacturing assistance, and repeals the Rural Energy Self-Sufficiency Initiative.

Title VII: Research, Extension, and Related Matters

  • Reauthorizes extramural research, extension, and education grants and formula funds for programs administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
  • Reauthorizes university research, extension, and education for agricultural activities at 1862, 1890, and 1994 Land-Grant Colleges and Universities.
  • Reauthorizes the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board and the Specialty Crop Committee.
  • Maintains permanent funding of $80 million per year for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, $30 million per year for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, and $20 million per year for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

Title VIII: Forestry

Authorizes the U.S. Forest Service to immediately implement tools to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire, insect and disease infestation, and damage to municipal watersheds by building upon the previous success of Categorical Exclusions (CEs).

  • Expedites the United States Forest Service’s ability to quickly remove dead trees after wildfires, and authorizes the USFS to implement tools to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire, insect and disease infestation, and damage to municipal watersheds.
  • Protects forests through cross-boundary forest management projects by authorizing the State and private forest landscape-scale restoration programs.
  • Promotes conservation on private forests through the Forest Legacy Program and the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program.

Title IX: Horticulture

  • Maintains funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, with funding provided for multi-state projects, while streamlining reporting requirements for State agencies.
  • Authorizes the Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program to improve and expand direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities including the development of local food system infrastructure.
  • Reauthorizes the National Organic Program and Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives and provides for modernization of organic import documentation, new technology advancements, and stricter enforcement of organic imports.
  • Clarifies the role and authority of State lead agencies in regulating pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

Title X: Crop Insurance

  • Allows the Risk Management Agency to offer insurance for forage and grazing and harvested grain in the same season for certain crops.
  • Prevents duplication of coverage between certain crop insurance policies and ARC
  • Extends the discount for beginning farms and ranchers from 5 years to 10 years for the purposes of calculating producer-paid premium for Whole Farm Revenue Protection
  • Repeals the Risk Management Education Partnerships Program, the Targeted States Program, and Agricultural Management Assistance, and adjusts funding levels.

Title XI: Miscellaneous

  • Provides $450 million to enhance USDA’s ability to identify, diagnose and respond to a potential animal disease outbreak. The bill establishes a new National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program.
  • Establishes a new U.S.-only vaccine bank with priority for stockpiling Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine and provides for the enhancement of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.
  • Provides $10 million per year for outreach and assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and military veterans in agriculture, reauthorizes the Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement to improve the viability and profitability of small, beginning, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, codifies the position of Agricultural Youth Organization Coordinator to ensure USDA is focused on promoting young people in agriculture, and creates a commission to study how the United States can be best positioned to help feed 9 billion people by 2050.

Source: Republican Policy Committee

Vote Outcome
All Votes R D I
Yea 87%
Nay 13%

Conference Report Agreed to. Simple Majority Required. Source:

The Yea votes represented 89% of the country’s population by apportioning each state’s population to its voting senators.

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