2018 Farm Bill, The Final Rundown: Research and the Future of U.S. Agriculture

by Maya Vesneske
Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

This is the tenth in a series of Snapshots breaking down the $867 billion Farm Bill that was signed into law on December 20, 2018 and is effective through fiscal year 2023. Each Snapshot focuses on a particular section or topic within the bill and explains its implications for U.S. agriculture over the course of the next five years. This Snapshot will focus on Title VII of the Agriculture Improvement Act.

Policy Name: Title VII of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, aka the Farm Bill

Policy Location: The 2018 Farm Bill is a bipartisan, federally-enacted law containing provisions and recommendations that are effective on state and local levels.

Overview: Approximately every five years, the United States Congress passes a new Farm Bill whose purpose is to reevaluate the agricultural landscape of the country and determine new protections, procedures, and funding for the various players in this diverse and interwoven network of food producers, traders, and consumers. Read more about the the general purposes and development of a Farm Bill here.

This cycle of the Farm Bill brought about some improvements in the area of agricultural research, reflecting the need for expanded agricultural understanding and usage, the most significant of which are outlined below.

Program/Policy Initiated: The policies discussed here were enacted in previous versions of the Farm Bill, and any reforms or repeals made in the 2018 bill are effective for the 2019 coverage cycle. Effective dates vary from one policy to another and changes may be enacted in waves.

Food policy category:

  • Food Waste Reduction and Management
  • Sustainable Agriculture
  • Preventative Health Care

How it works: Title VII, the research portion of the Farm Bill, works through a variety of policies, many of which of which work in conjunction with other sections of the bill. The effects of these policies on the future of agricultural knowledge and usage are outlined below:

  • The High Priority Research and Extension program is expanded to designate additional areas of research as high priority:
    • Macadamia tree health;
    • Fertilizer management, an area critical to expanding the health and capacity of crops;
    • Cattle fever ticks, an issue which threatens the health of both livestock and wildlife;
    • National turfgrass research, which is necessary for improving and expanding urban green spaces and environmental health.
  • The Specialty Crop Research Initiative provides more funding for the Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program, which, since its inception in 2014, has proved effective in combating citrus diseases and pests that threaten the health and availability of citrus crops, and, therefore, the livelihoods of citrus farmers.

Progress to date: Given how recently the current bill was passed, it is too soon to know how these policy changes, including Title VII, will specifically affect the future of U.S. agriculture.

Evaluation: While the amendments to the Research Title of the Farm Bill aren’t monumental, their focus on crop health and sustainability reflect an increased national focus on these issues. Supporting stable agriculture is not only good for the plants, but for growers, the agricultural economy, and the health of the environment as well as the consumers and enjoyers of these goods.

The expansion of research on turfgrass is an especially interesting development, as it turns attention to agricultural health beyond the traditional agricultural settings, creating potential new uses for turfgrass in urban parks and even in green architecture.

Hopefully this attitude will continue throughout the FY2019-FY2023 Farm Bill cycle and into the next, not just for the Research Title but for the Bill as a whole. The Farm Bill is an important part of establishing the discourse about and resources paid to U.S. agriculture, and the changes made in the 2018 redrafting, including those to Research, have reflected a prioritization of the environmental and economic health of our nation’s agricultural workers and produce.

Similar practices: To understand the context and significance of the changes in the 2018 Farm Bill, it is useful to compare it to previous versions. To learn more about how the 2018 bill compares to the 2014 version, check out the first resource in the “Learn more” section below.

Learn more:

Point of Contact:

House bill sponsor Mike Conaway (R-TX-11), Washington, D.C., office:

Phone: (202) 225-3605

Or, email his office via this form.


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