Approximately every five years, Congress establishes a new “farm bill.” You have likely heard news stories or read articles about the farm bill. This article provides a basic overview of the Farm Bill and what local farmers need to consider in the coming year.

What exactly is a farm bill? The “farm bill” is really much larger and broader in scope than the name implies. The farm bill is legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President of the United States. It details our nation’s policies and monetary provisions for Department of Agriculture programs that involve agricultural commodities (such as corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton, peanuts, etc.), farm credit, crop insurance, forestry, horticulture crops (fruits, nuts, vegetables, specialty crops), conservation, trade, rural development, energy, research and extension, and food assistance.

The first farm bill, known as the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, was implemented during the Great Depression when an excess supply of commodity crops resulted in low market prices and economic hardship for many farmers. During this time in America’s history, the farm bill encouraged farmers to voluntarily remove land from production in an effort to reduce supply and thereby increase commodity prices. The 1933 farm bill was only marginally effective and replaced by a more permanent bill in 1938.

More recently on Dec. 21, 2018, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (also known as the 2018 Farm Bill) was signed into law. This 1,000-plus page document outlines programs and policies that are in effect from 2019 through 2023, at which time a new farm bill must be passed. The cost of implementing current farm bill programs is estimated at $867 billion dollars over a ten-year period spanning the government’s fiscal years 2019 through 2029.

Although one might think the farm bill mostly funds things related to farming, the largest funded program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This program was formerly known as “food stamps.” The 2018 Farm Bill appropriates 77 percent of all Farm Bill funds to SNAP – which amounts to a whopping $664 billion in food assistance for people across the nation over the next decade.

So how does the 2018 Farm Bill affect farmers in Putnam County? The Commodity and Crop Insurance Titles are important pieces of legislation with programs that directly impact our local farms and farmers. The 2018 Farm Bill reauthorized commodity safety net programs that first appeared in the 2014 Farm Bill - Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC). These programs are similar under the new farm bill, yet there are some changes that our producers and farmers need to be aware of.

Ohio State University Extension and the USDA Farm Service Agency in Ohio have partnered to hold educational Farm Bill meetings to help producers make informed decisions related to enrollment in commodity programs. These meetings review changes to the ARC/PLC programs as well as provide important dates and deadlines. Attendees also learn about decision tools and calculators that help determine which program best fits the needs of their farms under current market conditions and outlook.

ARC/PLC enrollment for 2019 is currently open with a deadline of March 15, 2020. Enrollment for the 2020 crop year closes June 30, 2020. Producers can enroll for both 2019 and 2020 during the same visit to an FSA county office prior to or on March 15. Producers have the opportunity to elect either ARC or PLC for the 2019 to 2023 crop years, with the option to change their program election in 2021, 2022, and 2023.

Several events in January will help Putnam County farmers navigate the 2018 Farm Bill. A brief overview will be provided at Agronomy Night on Monday, January 13 at the Kalida Knights of Columbus Hall beginning at 6:30 pm. All are welcome, no RSVP is necessary, and a light meal is provided.

A more in-depth meeting covering the 2018 Farm Bill will be held at the Putnam County Extension office on Friday, January 24 from 9 to 11 am and again from 12 to 2 pm. As seating is somewhat limited in the meeting room, we kindly ask you to RSVP to ensure we can accommodate those planning to attend.

If you cannot attend these programs, visit http://go.osu.edu/farmbill2019 for a list of other Farm Bill meetings in surrounding counties. For additional information, please contact the Putnam County Extension office at 419-523-6294, by email at Scheckelhoff.11@osu.edu or stop in at 1206 East Second Street in Ottawa. You can also find us on Facebook by searching for OSU Extension Putnam County.