Farm Bill 2018 Passed

On December 20, 2018, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (a.k.a. the Farm Bill) was signed into law and will remain in effect for the next five years. WineAmerica was one of the many specialty crop organizations fighting for a robust bill. As Jim Trezise, WineAmerica President and NGRA Board member, says, “The Farm Bill is a massive and complex $867 billion piece of legislation whose multi-year funding can’t be overemphasized, as it makes longer term planning possible, particularly in areas like research where it is vital.”

Indeed, Farm Bill 2018 includes many critical provisions for research for the grape and wine industry. This summary of the bill’s research impacts is excerpted from an overview compiled by the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance that NGRA was a part of. See the complete summary here.

  • Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI): One of the most important funding mechanisms for grape and wine industry research, SCRI has been restored to its full $80 million per year allocation. The bill provides $25 million per year for the creation of a citrus trust fund to help combat citrus greening–an amount that in the previous Farm Bill was carved out of the total. The new provisions are effectively a $125 million increase over the 2014 level funding over a five-year Farm Bill.
  • Specialty Crop Block Grants:The $85 million per year funding in this program represents a significant increase over the Farm Bill’s five-year lifespan, from $375 million to $425 million. The new bill also eases hurdles in existing law that have made funding of multi-state projects more difficult.
  • Mechanization:Recognizing the growing need for mechanization in labor-intensive agricultural commodities, the new bill’s research title includes language that bolsters mechanization as a research priority throughout. In particular, the pilot program, Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority (AGARDA), prioritizes critical research and development needs for specialty crops; the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) now has a research priority that accelerates the use of automation and mechanization for labor-intensive tasks; and the bill requires the Secretary to review and assess how USDA programs can be used to support development of mechanization tools for specialty crops.
  • Pest and Disease:The legislation maintains funding at $75 million per year to combat invasive pests and diseases, and incorporates language to help coordinate research projects to ensure better utilization of existing resources. It also reauthorizes the National Clean Plant Network.

Although not research-related, it should be noted that Farm Bill 2018 also continues the Market Access Program that’s so vital for international trade. Administered by the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service, MAP holds steady at $200 million per year. These funds are allocated to directly to commodity groups, including those for wine, table grapes, juice and raisins, which are required to submit annual strategic plans and activity reports. (To get a feel for these allocations, see the 2018 list here.) As Jim Trezise says, “Building markets anywhere, but especially overseas, takes lots of time and money, and MAP provides both. The MAP program has been a great investment for the American economy, with participating commodities representing 15% of total U.S. export revenues generated between 1977 and 2017.”

Many thanks to the policymakers and specialty crop organizations who put countless hours toward ensuring the future of the Farm Bill and its research provisions. The monies guaranteed in Farm Bill 2018 will enable research today whose outcomes will extend well beyond the five-year scope of the legislation.