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Farmers respond to new farm bill

It was a long road, but shortly before Christmas 2018 President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill into law with support from both parties in Congress as well as Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

For 45 years Dick Gallagher has farmed on a spread outside of Washington. He is a member of the Washington County Corn Growers and the Iowa Corn Growers Association, District 9. District 9 covers Davis, Des Moines, Henry, Jefferson, Keokuk, Lee, Louisa, Mahaska, Van Buren, Wapello and Washington counties.

“I’m happy the farm bill was approved and signed by the president,” he said. “I think it provides stabilization from production aghreiculture because in dealing with the government programs it will be easier for people to go into their lending institution and be helped to get lines of credit.”

The first thing about the bill that caught Gallagher’s eye was seed money to help create new markets for commodities overseas. He said foreign market development is essential for the commodities industry to grow in the future. In Iowa, pork, bean and corn production will be able to have offices overseas which he said was “vitally important” to the growth of the industry.

SNAP

One of the sticking points in the farm bill was increased restrictions into federal food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that serves nearly 40 million Americans. Restrictions included provisions that would have required 3.5 million Americans to work 20 hours per week to qualify. When the bill went to the Oval Office to be signed, the restrictions were not included. One change in the program is the new bill will create a new federal database to identify anyone receiving SNAP benefits from multiple states. Any savings uncovered will go back into the food programs.

Gallagher said for SNAP to be included in the farm bill makes sense as the food comes from production agriculture.

Conservation

The bill increases the amount of land the government is willing to pay farmers to set aside for conservation. Gallagher said the ground he farms does not require the conservation aspect of agriculture.

According to the bill, the acreage of land eligible for the Conservation Reserve Program will climb from 24 million acres to 27 million by 2023. The program pays farmers to use conservation practices like cover crops and field rotations.

Hemp plants

Many states have already legalized growing hemp plants as cash crop with the industry quickly growing. The farm bill removes hemp from the list of controlled substances.

“Last summer I was in Colorado and the secretary of agriculture out there talked about hemp,” Gallagher said. “They are talking about the rules and regulations they have to go through. The use of hemp for medical purposes seems to be growing in popularity and if it gives medical relief, I think that is an aspect we need to look at.”

Hemp does not produce THC — the active ingredient in marijuana — but can be used to create the medicinal CBD oil and for a variety of industrial applications.

Crop insurance

According to the bill, certain crop insurance premiums will be subsidized, as well as certain expenses for private business that underwrites the policies. Insurance was established in the 2014 farm bill and remains the primary safety net for farmers against price loss and agricultural risk.

Gallagher said crop insurance gives assurances to lending institutions that increase the ability to obtain a loan.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig issued the following statement regarding President Donald Trump signing the new Farm Bill into law.

“The Farm Bill provides long-term stability as farmers plan for the next growing season and beyond. To have the certainty that a strong crop insurance program remains in place is critically important as farmers continue to deal with tremendous volatility in both weather and markets. The strong conservation title will ensure USDA remains a key partner as we continue to expand efforts to protect our soil and improve water quality. The bill also maintains important market development programs within USDA and provides new funding for foreign animal disease response efforts, including a vaccine bank for foot-and-mouth disease, to help protect our critically important livestock industry.”