Earlier this month, President Biden signed a stopgap funding bill that Congress passed with bipartisan support, which funds certain aspects of the federal government (including agriculture) into January 2024 and others into February 2024. The new law also extended The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, which expired on September 30, 2023, until September 30, 2024.
Congress typically passes a farm bill every five years. Throughout 2023, Congressional agricultural committees had been conducting robust hearings and listening sessions around the country but had yet to release a draft 2023 farm bill.
Its name notwithstanding, each farm bill addresses a range of topics, including:
- Agricultural programs, e.g., crop subsidies and research and innovation;
- Conservation efforts, e.g., the National Resources Conservation Service, which promotes conservation easements and other stewardship programs;
- Welfare programs, e.g., the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, i.e., food stamps) and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, which provides food, formula, and other support to low-income families; and
- Investments in rural community development and services.
Importantly, the 2018 Farm Bill also addressed for the first time the production of hemp, i.e., cannabis with no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight. By legalizing the cultivation of hemp and removing it from the Schedule 1 controlled substances list, the 2018 Farm Bill ignited a national boom in hemp development and use, including textiles and CBD products.
What to look for in the 2024 Farm Bill
Throughout 2023, there were several recurring topics in the farm bill discussions:
- Hemp – Many are pushing Congress to regulate CBD as a dietary supplement and food additive as well as reassess the 0.3% THC threshold that separates hemp from cannabis.
- Regenerative Agriculture – Likely the hottest topic in agriculture is the expanding interest in holistic farming and ranching practices. Whether Congress should venture into the world of "regen" as it has with organic is also a hot debate.
- Rural Internet – As more farms, ranches, and production facilities adopt connected equipment and other ag-tech features, pressure to rapidly expand internet access (whether through broadband or satellite) continues to mount.
Shipman continues to monitor the development of the 2023—now 2024—Farm Bill. Please reach out to your Shipman contact or a member of the Firm's Cannabis or Food and Beverage teams to discuss how these and other issues may affect your business.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.