Friday, February 14, 2014

Digging into the 2014 Farm Bill: How the Bill Affects the Agriculture, Horticulture, and Floriculture Industries

On February 8, 2014, President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the Farm Bill, into effect. A new Farm Bill is passed approximately every five years and the latest bill, comprising a staggering 1,000+ pages, will yet again have a major effect on the agriculture, horticulture and floriculture industries, particularly the farmers and growers whose life work is harvesting the crops on which the country depends.

While many in these industries have been keeping a watchful eye on the status of the bill, the complexity of government legislation may have left some without a thorough understanding of its influence on their day-to-day businesses.

Photo credit: Michigan State University, The State News
Farmers and growers, review this concise overview which covers a few of the essential, major components of the Farm Bill our team believes to be most applicable, and learn how it will impact you.

Agriculture: Both farmers and consumers will be affected by the 2014 Farm Bill. The reduction of food stamps has brought about mixed reactions, yet the progress in the food industry delivered by the bill is notable.
  • SNAP, most formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, will be decreased to some citizens. However, those still able to utilize the program will have better access to more nutritious food, as SNAP benefits have been doubled at farmer’s markets under the Farmers Market Promotion Program. Addressing the critical issue of nutrition and public health is vital; this program, and others, will drive revenue for regional farmers and lead to expansion.
  •  With only 2.2 million farms producing our nation’s food, and less than 2 percent of the U.S. population working them, the uncertainty of crop yields can deal a detrimental financial blow to farmers. What many experts consider the bill’s biggest attribute to be is a new insurance policy, which will support farmers in times of loss and help risk management. 
Photo credit: Reuters
Horticulture / Floriculture: The reach of the 2014 Farm Bill will go beyond farmers of food; those in the nursery and floriculture trade will see increased funding to several beneficial programs.
  • Are you a grower of Christmas trees? A battle in the long-fought war against artificial trees was won with the signing of the bill by President Obama. A 15 cent tax will be placed on every tree sold and the funds, estimated to total $3 million in the next five years, are being directed to research and marketing to further promote the live tree industry. 
  • Several diseases have plagued the nursery grower industry in recent years, including the fungicide-resistant impatiens downy mildew disease, the quick-spreading boxwood blight and new invasive insects. The Farm Bill will lend millions of dollars more to pest and disease research, among other programs that safeguard nursery production. 
  • Along with fruits and vegetables, horticulture and nursery crops are designated as specialty crops by the U.S Department of Agriculture. The Specialty Crop Block Grant and Specialty Crop Research Initiative will both work to help enhance competitiveness for these crops against staple and highly lucrative crops such as soybeans, rice and corn. The block grant will involve both state and regional industry associations on marketing campaigns, while the crop research aspect will bring the necessary attention to the organic agriculture and horticulture industry. 

Overall, citizens of the United States have a right to nutritious food and healthy crops of all kinds. While some people may not agree with the Farm Bill in its entirety, it is hard to deny the need for funding that will improve public health and wellness. This new legislation is allowing average citizens the ability to buy healthy food and granting hard-working farmers the capacity to grow that food, along with successful plant cultivation that aid to environmental and human well-being.

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