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New farm bill provides some much-needed certainty during difficult economic period

by Carolyn Orr ~ January 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
At a time when net U.S. farm income levels have fallen to a 16-year low, the Midwest’s agriculture producers were looking for some good news at the end of 2018. The new farm bill is largely thought to be just that.
Passed by the U.S. Congress in December, the bipartisan Agricultural Improvement Act maintains and expands crucial loan, insurance and conservation programs for farmers, while also making new investments in areas such as rural broadband and urban agriculture.
Indiana state Sen. Jean Leising, who attended the farm bill’s signing ceremony, says the new federal law “will provide more certainty to farm programs, particularly the changes to the Commodity Title and the safety net of the crop insurance program, than an extension [of the existing farm bill] would have provided.”
This good news on the policy front comes at a time when “the economic conditions that our farms and rural communities are facing are bleak,” Leising says — the result of factors such as higher production costs, weak prices for most major U.S. crops, and a volatile period for farm exports due to ongoing global trade disputes.
With those economic challenges as a backdrop, the U.S. Congress faced the task of reaching agreement on the single most important piece of agriculture legislation in the country, the farm bill. Here is a summary of some of the key changes.