Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill after months of negotiations culminating in a final agreement that preserves the status quo for farm policy and rural America. The final compromise that was approved by both houses of Congress earlier in the week removes several controversial House Republican-backed provisions relating to 1) new and additional work requirements to obtain benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and 2) forest management.
In a victory for RCRC were several provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill that liberalize the edibility for rural communities to obtain access to several programs. The Bill amends the definition of “rural area” to provide that a city or town that has a population of up to 50,000 inhabitants is eligible for guaranteed loans in the rural broadband program. The Bill also expands the definition of “rural” and “rural area” for up to 50,000 for an area to be eligible for loan guarantees for water, wastewater, and essential community facilities.
The 2018 Farm Bill prioritizes funding for Water and Wastewater Facility projects in communities with populations of 10,000 people or less. This is intended to expand access to rural loan guarantee and grant programs for rural counties on critical projects related to rural broadband and water management. Raising the population threshold for the definition of rural will be benefit rural counties in California in particular and expand access to federal funding for rural broadband projects.
The 2018 Farm Bill also includes provisions to end the federal prohibition on industrial hemp, and allows State Departments of Agriculture and Native American tribes to regulate production of hemp. Federal oversight of industrial hemp will transfer from the Department of Justice to the Department of Agriculture, and directs the Secretary of Agriculture to submit a report to Congress on the market viability of the production and sale of industrial hemp. California voters sanctioned industrial hemp under the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016, and the State and many continue to address the rules for its cultivation/production.
Nearly the entire California delegation voted for the 2018 Farm Bill. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Kamala Harris voted for the bill when it cleared the U.S. Senate. The Bill easily secured passage in the House in a 369-47 vote, with 16 Members not voting. Most of rural California’s delegation in the House voted for the bill including Representatives Doug LaMalfa (R-Butte), John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove), Jared Huffman (D-Marin), Mike Thompson (D-Napa), Jeff Denham (D-Modesto), Jim Costa (D-Fresno), David Valadao (R-Hanford), Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), and Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield). The only Member from rural California to vote against the Bill was Representative Tom McClintock (R-Placer).
President Trump is fully expected to sign into law the 2018 Farm Bill.