Quick Snapshot: What’s in the 2023 US Farm Bill
Sep 12, 2023
The 2023 Farm Bill is on its way. In an ideal world, it would be swiftly renewed after its previous incarnation, 2018’s Agriculture Improvement Act, expires on September 30. But that’s unlikely. Deliberations are ongoing, time-consuming and complicated. Every Farm Bill has far-reaching implications, big and small, for growers around the country. You are its stakeholders—and that means we are, too. Because setting you up to succeed is what Lindsay is all about.
We feel a deep connection to our customers; we want to see every grower’s operation thrive. As part of that, we advocate for policies that will support you. We also want to make sure you know how this latest version will affect you. A solid understanding of the Farm Bill’s basics and knowledge of new developments will put you in a stronger position once the bill passes. So, whether you’re thoroughly familiar with it or have only heard of it in passing, let’s dive right in:
What is the Farm Bill?
The Farm Bill is a comprehensive funding package designed to support American growers, foster innovations throughout every sector in agriculture, promote food security and more. Through a combination of mandatory and discretionary spending, it sends money to where it’s most helpful in each state and for each market.
What is the purpose of the Farm Bill?
The bill’s scope has expanded a lot since 1933, but broadly speaking, its foundational purpose remains the same: help the American agricultural industry grow and thrive. A combination of subsidies, insurance programs and other forms of aid help growers boost business (and give them a helping hand when business is less than ideal). Other purposes of the bill include feeding low-income people and offering financial stability to growers; it also funds research and development of new technology and solutions, forest management and food security.
What is in the Farm Bill?
The Farm Bill’s provisions are divided into “titles,” 12 as of 2018, which cover various aspects of American agriculture:
Title I: Commodity programs
This title is two-pronged: first, it supports growers of (perhaps unsurprisingly) certain commodities and specialty crops. This assistance takes the form of the Agriculture Risk (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs and Commodity Loans.
Second, it contains disaster assistance provisions—including but not limited to emergency financial assistance after severe weather. Notably, this assistance is available to a wider variety of ag professionals, not just commodities growers.
Title II: Conservation
The conservation title is all about resource conservation, promoting sustainable farming practices and protecting local ecosystems. It funds programs like the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
Title III: Trade
Trade title funds go towards fostering international trade policies and agreements that impact American agricultural exports and imports—and towards creating new trade opportunities for American-grown products.
Title IV: Nutrition
This title is all about keeping low-income people fed and improving access to healthy, high-quality food, most famously through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Title IV also funds distribution of commodities to entities like schools and food banks, food coupons for seniors, grants for farmers’ markets and other forms of food aid.
Title V: Credit
The credit and financing programs administered through Title V offer direct government loans, or guarantees on private loans, to help growers keep cash on hand and manage financial risk.
Title VI: Rural development
The various Title VI offerings are designed to foster growth in rural areas. That takes many forms, including funds for water and waste disposal nonprofits, training programs, direct loans for community development and more. Notably, it includes funds for connectivity, meant to boost broadband availability in underserved areas.
Title VII: Research, extension and related matters
If you’re hoping to fund research into new, more sustainable agricultural practices, or maybe combat pests and diseases that hit specialty crops like citrus fruits, you’ll likely find funding through Title VII. It’s all about innovations to make growers more efficient, innovative and productive.
Title VIII: Forestry
There’s about 765 million acres of forestland in the United States—and any programs to conserve or restore it fall under this title. A forestry-driven program might fund restoration of damaged forest landscapes, protect watersheds, save endangered species and more. It also funds the United States Forest Service.
Title IX: Energy
Renewable energy holds a lot of promise for growers looking to embrace sustainable practices and lower their overall spending. Through grants, loan guarantees and other financial aid, the Energy title encourages the development and adoption of renewables for farms and rural communities.
Title X: Horticulture
Commodities aren’t the only crops with their very own title. Title X covers specialty crops—everything from fruits (fresh and dried) and vegetables to tree nuts, nursery crops and more. It also supports hemp growers, local food programs and organic agriculture.
Title XI: Crop insurance
This title offers insurance coverage for both crop yield and crop revenue, as well as whole-farm and livestock coverage. It does this by subsidizing growers' premium payments to private insurers, as well as some of the insurers' operating expenses. It also shares underwriting gains and losses with the insurers.
Title XII: Miscellaneous
This one is a bit of a catch-all, including any programs or forms of assistance not specifically tied to any other title. For example, a new grower seeking training and resources to grow her business might apply for Title XII’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which trains beginners and helps them network with fellow growers. It’s an important title filled with programs that don’t quite fit anywhere else.
What are some 2023 Farm Bill priorities?
The Farm Bill is massive by design; it’s an all-encompassing roadmap for government spending on agriculture. Merely agreeing on what to include in the bill can often take two to three years. Lindsay customers might be especially interested in these points of negotiation:
As demand, prices and availability of resources fluctuate, growers are looking to advanced solutions like precision agriculture. Such solutions can make their operations more flexible, keep their yields consistent and use resources more efficiently. But those solutions usually require access to high-speed internet…which 12% of Americans still lack (disproportionately in rural areas). Without it, growers can’t get the most out of available technology (including smart solutions like FieldNET™).
Farm Bill authors have worked to address this issue since 2002, but access issues persist due to funding shortages, lack of infrastructure and the sheer logistical challenges of laying miles of cable. One bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging passage of the Rural Internet Improvement Act, which would merge the Reconnect and Community Connect broadband development programs and simplify the application process. Others have introduced legislation to more thoroughly vet any internet service providers who want Farm Bill funding. There’s a lot of factors to consider and many of them may end up rolled into the Farm Bill.
If you want to expand your remote management capabilities or adopt new irrigation technologies in the future, watch these negotiations carefully. Or, reach out to your local USDA Telecom Contact to find out how your community can take advantage of resources that are already available.
Making farms sustainable is a team effort. It’s not just up to individuals; farms, the government and private companies must work together to develop lasting sustainable solutions. On the micro level, growers can adopt better irrigation and fertilization practices. On the macro level, the government can step in through provisions like:
Increasing funding to, and simplifying the application process for, EQIP and RCPP. This would help growers adopt better irrigation systems, use remote management technology and experiment with more effective planting practices. Right now, applying takes years. The 2018 bill began addressing this, but additional funding will deliver even better results.
Diversifying responses to changing weather patterns and fluctuations in resources. This could take the form of increased funding for the Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities program, renewable energy through Title X, or community initiatives via local Climate Hubs.
Improving the standards for measuring and verifying actions that increase soil carbon; in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, this can help preserve topsoil and increase soil nutrition.
Boosting funding toward domestic fertilizer manufacturing, researching alternate forms of fertilizer and subsidizing no-till and coverage crops. The latter could be key to increasing soil nutrition, in turn reducing each grower’s need for chemical fertilizers, freeing up more of that (now domestically manufactured!) resource for other growers.
Of course, there are ways to increase your farm’s sustainability right now, including some from us: FieldNET can save you countless gallons of water. Zimmatic pivots use that water far more efficiently. And smart solutions like Variable-Rate Irrigation (VRI) ensure you use exactly how much water and fertilizer you need, not a drop more. What’s more sustainable than that?
Just as with any other market, there will always be unforeseen circumstances in farming. But farming isn’t like any other market; it’s a cornerstone of the nation’s food security and economic success. That’s why crop insurance has been part of the Farm Bill since the creation of the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) in 1938—and why there’s broad bipartisan agreement that it’s in the government’s best interest to partner with private insurers and subsidize premiums for about 1.2 million growers.
However, with every Farm Bill comes debate over just how much money should be spent on insurance. For example, the Government Accountability Office recommends reducing subsidies for high-income participants and allowing the government to adjust compensation levels for insurers in order to realize savings. Meanwhile, rural bank lenders and insurers want lower premiums and higher payment limits, which could raise spending on all subsidies. Growers in Connecticut point out coverage that works well for Midwestern or Southern farms is insufficient in the Northeast. Stakeholders at every level—from legislators to trade groups to individual farmers—all have to weigh in before the bill can pass.
Like crop insurance, farm subsidies have been part of the Farm Bill since its inception, precisely because growers are so important to the continued success of the nation. However, also like crop insurance, there’s always debate over how much money should be available, how it should be used and who should have access to it. Everyone agrees growers deserve the subsidies, but the details can get contentious. Legislators have to listen to many competing interests and hammer out compromises for all of them.
When you keep all these conversations in mind, it’s easy to see why the Farm Bill’s contents are constantly in flux—and why negotiations can drag on so long.
What is the projected Farm Bill timeline?
On that note, as mentioned, the deadline for Farm Bill passage is September 30, 2023. Ideally, anyway. In reality, the last two Farm Bills passed late—2018’s bill passed in December instead of September, and 2008’s was extended until 2014—so it won’t be unprecedented if this one isn’t over the finish line by November.
Congress entered the August recess without passing a bill, but the House of Representatives plans on circulating drafts in early September, while the Senate anticipates passing their version by October. Assuming the Congressional Budget Review office gives the final product a good score, the bill could pass before the end of the year. Still, the timeline remains murky—so keep checking the news.
Where can I learn more?
There are several ways to keep track of the bill’s status.
- The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry began hearings in 2022 and has been taking ideas and proposals ever since; keep an eye on its webpage for announcements as the Senate approaches its deadline.
- The USDA maintains an archive of past Farm Bills and the latest research related to the 2023 bill.
- If you’re interested in congressional hearings, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute runs a tracker summarizing the latest conversations on Capitol Hill.
- The University of Kentucky’s Department of Agricultural Economics has an overview and updates page with breakdowns of specific kinds of funding.
- The Farm Aid music festival blog provides ongoing updates on the bill’s development.
How can I contribute?
Every grower is a stakeholder in this legislation—and every grower has a chance to make their voice heard. Contact the Senate Agriculture Committee using this form, or reach out to the House Committee on Agriculture here.
As you can see, hammering out all the details in the Farm Bill is a lengthy process. But given just how many aspects of growers’ lives the bill affects, it’s understandable—and desirable—for lawmakers and interest groups on all sides to take their time. As negotiations draw to a close, we look forward to seeing what’s in the final bill!