Montana cattle

Cattle graze in a pasture near Ennis, Montana. Photo by Jeff Adkins

The clock is ticking on the 2014 Farm Bill. As 2018 fast approaches, conversation of what should be included in the Farm Bill’s next legislation becomes more urgent.

Former Director Ron de Yong at the Montana Department of Agriculture says the bill is important for more than just producers.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the bill is an important piece of legislation that provides for services and programs that impact every American, while helping the families and businesses of rural communities. It strengthens the American economy by generating $35 in economic benefits for every dollar invested by prompting trade to keep farm incomes strong.

Safety net programs, conservation and nutrition are the three largest areas of the current Farm Bill. Specialist Kate Binzen Fuller at the Montana State University Extension says the Farm Bill is large and diverse, which has led to some misconceptions.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture projected Farm Bill spending would be approximately $490 billion over 2014 through 2018,” Fuller says. “One thing a lot of people don’t know is that nutrition programs make up the biggest portion of the spending – about 80 percent.

“In the 2014 Farm Bill, safety net programs were Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage,” Fuller adds. “Most producers in Montana chose Protection Loss Coverage, which paid on wheat in 2015.”

De Yong says evening out the funding in the next Farm Bill could make for an even stronger bill with greater impact on the American economy.

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“It is critical for both producers and consumers that Congress pass a new Farm Bill containing a strong component for nutrition programs, conservation programs and a safety net that provides adequate risk management,” he says.

Fuller adds, “Although I am doubtful that this points to it getting done any quicker, there is already a lot of talk about the next Farm Bill.”