May 28, 2024

House Agriculture Committee Completes Markup of 2024 Farm Bill

Holland & Knight Alert
Peter Tabor | Elizabeth Leoty Craddock | Kayla Gebeck Carroll | Isabel C. Lane | Molly Broughton


  • The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture completed its markup of the Farm, Food and National Security Act of 2024 (Farm Bill) on May 24, 2024, and passed the proposed legislation 33-21.
  • When or whether the Farm Bill is brought to the House floor for a vote is uncertain due to substantive and logistical factors.
  • U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry leadership has also indicated it will unveil its draft text, which will provide a clearer indication of the challenges ahead for final passage of a Farm Bill.
  • This Holland & Knight alert summarizes the notable changes to each Farm Bill title as recommended by the House Agriculture Committee.

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture completed its markup of the Farm, Food and National Security Act of 2024 (Farm Bill) on May 24, 2024, and passed the proposed legislation 33-21, with four Democrats – Reps. Don Davis (D-N.C.), Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), Eric Sorensen (D-Ill.) and Yadira Caraveo (D-Colo.) – voting in support of the legislation.

When or whether the Farm Bill is brought to the House floor for a vote is uncertain due to substantive and logistical factors. U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry leadership has also indicated it will unveil its draft text, which will provide a clearer indication of the challenges ahead for final passage of a Farm Bill.

The markup follows the discussion draft text that was released by House Agriculture Committee leadership on May 17, 2024. Democrats sought to present a unified front by opposing the draft text and in support of the Senate Agriculture leadership approach, while Republicans sought to fracture the Democratic position by including provisions sought by several Democratic committee members.

More than 50 amendments were introduced and considered during markup. Notable amendments that made it into the final bill text that was passed out of committee include:

  • a prohibition on using U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding for solar projects that incorporate input from foreign countries of concern such as China, Iran, North Korea and Russia
  • a prohibition on school authorities' purchases of seafood or poultry products from China or Russia for use in school lunch programs
  • establishment of a USDA strategy on sustainable aviation fuels
  • an updated definition to agricultural hemp to include only nonintoxicating derivatives
  • commissioning a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the prevalence of and factors contributing to the use of child labor in meat processing facilities by entities contracting or subcontracting with USDA, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The three major debates throughout the Farm Bill negotiations, including during the markup, are 1) funding and eligibility determinations for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), 2) reallocating climate-related conservation program funds from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to the Farm Bill conservation title (with climate guardrails removed) and 3) limiting the agriculture secretary's discretion to allocate unspent Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funds. House Agriculture Democrats faced pressure from senior party members, as well as the Senate Democratic majority, to vote against the bill, characterizing it as "dead on arrival" in the upper chamber.

As noted above, the Senate Agriculture Committee has yet to release its discussion draft text but has released a section-by-section summary that details the bill's priorities. A previous Holland & Knight alert highlighted the key differences between the House and Senate Farm Bill approaches – differences that are more apparent with the release of the House Farm Bill text.

While clients' focus is on the House Farm Bill reauthorization process, Holland & Knight continues engaging Senate committee members and staff to determine the path forward for legislation through both chambers later this year or in the 119th Congress.

This Holland & Knight alert summarizes the notable changes to each Farm Bill title as recommended by the House Agriculture Committee.  

Title I: Commodities

As one of the most significant areas of focus for this Farm Bill, Title I addresses increasing pressures on the agricultural system as crop losses and deficits mount due to factors such as pest, diseases and extreme weather.

Specifically, there has been bipartisan interest in increasing "reference prices" for commodities covered under the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) programs, resulting in higher expected payments per base acre. Which commodity reference prices are bolstered and how to pay for these increases has been one of the primary subjects for partisan debate in the Farm Bill negotiations.

Republicans initially floated proposals to repurpose IRA conservation and climate-smart agriculture program funds to remedy concerns about solvency of the crop insurance systems for major commodities, but they stepped back from this concept in the House draft. Instead, Agriculture Committee Chair Glenn "GT" Thompson's (R-Pa.) proposal suspends Section 5 of the CCC Charter Act, which has been used by USDA secretaries in the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations to address specific challenges to the agricultural system, reallocating this authority to boost Title I farm subsidies and crop insurance premium subsidies by between $50 billion and $53 billion over 10 years.

Notably, the House Republican bill raises reference prices higher than the Senate Democratic proposal, allowing all producers to obtain new base acres, and makes other, bigger improvements to the farm safety net. Peanuts (34 percent), rice (25 percent), wheat (16 percent) and cotton (14 percent) receive the biggest increases under the House Republican proposal. In addition to increasing the reference prices, the program expands authority to establish base acres for producers who otherwise cannot participate in the program, using crop years 2019-2023 as reference periods.

In a statement on the Republican draft bill, the move to suspend the CCC authority was a focus of House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member David Scott's (D-Ga.) criticism. "The Republican plan to eliminate the agriculture secretary's CCC discretionary authority would tie the hands of our government to assist farmers during natural disasters and pandemics," said Rep. Scott. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the potential savings from suspending the agriculture secretary's Section 5 authority could be between zero and $8 billion, while Chair Thompson relies on a $53 billion savings estimate.

In addition to the changes to the ARC/PLC programs, the proposal bolsters programs specific to sugar, dairy and certain other commodity producers by:

  • modernizing the administration of the tariff-rate quota for raw cane sugar and marketing allotments for sugar beet processors
  • increasing the loan rate for raw cane sugar and the factor for refined beet sugar
  • authorizing the agriculture secretary to study and further define "refined" sugar
  • increasing the cap on Tier I coverage for the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program to 6 million pounds and providing a 25 percent discount on DMC premiums for operations that enroll in coverage for the life of the bill
  • mandating biennial cost surveys to ensure allowances accurately reflect the cost of manufacturing dairy products
  • restoring the "higher-of" formula for the calculation of the price of Class I (fluid) milk until such time that updates to a Federal Milk Marketing Order are ratified
  • protecting the Dairy Forward Pricing Program
  • enhancing flexibility for loan redemption of upland cotton and modernizing loan provisions for extra-long staple cotton
  • increasing the payment rate from 3 cents to 5 cents under Economic Adjustment Assistance for Textile Mills (EAATM)

The draft also expands other standing disaster programs, including the:

  • Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP)
  • Tree Assistance (TAP) program, a key priority for Democrats
  • Noninsured Crop Disaster Program (NAP)
  • Livestock Forage Program (LFP)
  • Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish (ELAP)

Title II: Conservation

The House draft increases funding across USDA conservation programs, shifting unspent IRA resources to existing Farm Bill conservation programs while removing the federal mandate that the funds be used on climate-smart conservation practices.

The elimination of these guardrails on spending has drawn the ire of House Democrats, who have pushed hard to protect climate-focused spending under the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). These conservation programs administered under the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) received more than $20 billion in funding under the IRA – the single largest pot of direct spending in the bill.

There has been significant political attention to this matter. Republicans have advocated for repurposing the dollars toward the Commodities title or rescinding the funds entirely as a pay-for, while Democrats have pushed hard in Farm Bill negotiations to keep the funding provisions intact and entirely within the Conservation title. Shifting dollars across titles would be an unprecedented move for the Farm Bill and one that Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has staunchly opposed.

Chair Thompson's draft would maintain funding within Title II, though walking back the most climate-forward provisions in the IRA's USDA title will be unacceptable for many House Democrats. Moreover, some of the IRA funds are repurposed entirely toward orphan and new programs:

  • Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program (FSCP): $150 million
  • Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP): reauthorized at $150 million
  • Forest Conservation Easement Program (FCEP), which will repeal and replace the Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP): $240 million

General reforms to the conservation title include:

  • creating an Office of Innovation within the USDA's Office of the Secretary
  • reforming the process for setting and updating Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) practice standards, requiring updates every five years
  • updating the Technical Service Provider (TSP) program, creating additional opportunities for certification of third-party and nonfederal providers
  • creating direct-hire authority for NRCS
  • removing for all conservation program participants who earn 75 percent or more of their income from agriculture

Program-specific reforms include:

  • defining precision agriculture and incorporating into EQIP and CSP
  • reinstating the EQIP minimum livestock allocation at 50 percent and maintaining the wildlife habitat minimum allocation at 10 percent
  • authorizing Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) advance payments of up to 75 percent
  • expanding authorization of RCPP to include flood resiliency
  • allowing for up to 10 percent of the funds for an RCPP partnership agreement to reimburse the partner for administrative expenses related to the project
  • facilitating a variety of reforms to ACEP, including easement reforms, permitting separate application rankings for disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, clarifying the certification process for experienced entities and more

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) would be reformed to increase focus on state partnerships while also increasing maximum payments from $50,000 to $125,000 per year. The bill encourages the program to be more locally led by codifying the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) Initiative and combining it with the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to create a new State Partnership Initiative enrollment option that maintains all the existing authorities of both programs. The acreage caps would remain in place, and state allocations would be based on historical allocations.

Title III: Trade

The trade title introduces significant changes to popular programs that facilitate food aid and foreign market access. Considerable attention is given to specialty crops. Highlights include:

  • a doubling of the funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, which help grow U.S. food and agriculture exports
  • provisions to address infrastructure deficiencies in foreign markets, increase funding for key programs that facilitate U.S. food and agriculture exports and require USDA to negotiate with key trading partners on a range of issues, including regionalization for foreign animal diseases and access for foods using common names

A high-profile change to the trade title increases funding for the following programs for fiscal years (FY) 2025-2029:

  • MAP funding is increased from $200 million per year to $400 million per year.
  • FMD program funding is increased from $34.5 million per year to $69 million per year.

These changes garnered strong bipartisan support; requests to boost funding for these programs outnumbered any other request received by the Agriculture Committee.

In addition to the changes highlighted above, the trade title language also proposes requiring the agriculture secretary to submit to the House Agriculture Committee a report every two years detailing the competitiveness of U.S. specialty crops. It also authorizes the agriculture secretary to negotiate foreign market access for U.S. commodities or foods that utilize common names. The agriculture secretary must also brief U.S. Congress twice annually on the progress made to secure agreements with trading partners.

In addition, proposed trade title language authorizes the creation of an interagency working group to monitor and assess seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables trade data, with the aim of delivering recommendations to the agriculture secretary for assistance or programs to address market impacts.

The trade title also includes several provisions related to U.S. food aid programs that have strong support among U.S. food and agriculture producers.

Title IV: Nutrition

The nutrition title of the Farm Bill represents more than 75 percent of the bill's spending (projected to be 82 percent in the next Farm Bill), providing funding for SNAP, the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), Commodity Distribution Programs and Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) grants.

Highlights include:

  • heightens the oversight and integrity provisions in the SNAP
  • expands SNAP eligibility for people with felony drug convictions, opens registration for SNAP benefits to people who are set to be released from prison in 30 days, streamlines SNAP applications for the elderly and notifies higher education students utilizing work-study programs of their SNAP eligibility status
  • establishes nutrition and Buy America standards for food distribution programs
  • outlines a path to transitioning GusNIP grants from the USDA to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

The nutrition title text includes provisions designed to gather data on SNAP transactions in order to improve the program. It also establishes an Office of Program Integrity aimed at improving the development, implementation, evaluation and monitoring of nutrition programs and policies administered by the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service. This includes preparing an annual report to be submitted to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, along with the public, on program trends, outcomes, recommendations and instances of fraud, waste and abuse where enforcement action was not taken.

The title text also seeks to improve benefit access for segments of the U.S. population who have heretofore been excluded from eligibility by 1) amending the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) to disallow state agencies from imposing a disqualification of benefits for certain felony drug convictions and 2) amending the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to add that incarcerated individuals who are scheduled to be released from an institution within 30 days are eligible to apply for SNAP benefits.

Subtitle B: Commodity Distribution Programs

In Section 4202, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program was renewed in funding through 2029 and added several programs. The first of such was a Commodity Supplemental Food Program Delivery Pilot Program to provide grants to state agencies to distribute food to low-income seniors in rural areas.

Subtitle C: Miscellaneous

Section 4303 requires the USDA secretary to promulgate regulations to ensure that food products distributed under the following programs are consistent with the goals of the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans and also reflect the cultural and religious dietary needs of the program recipients:

  • Section 4(a) of the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Act of 1973
  • Emergency Food Assistance Act of 1983
  • Section 4(b) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008

Section 4304 amends the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to require the USDA secretary to issue guidance to states for identifying and notifying eligible students who qualify for SNAP benefits.

Section 4305 amends the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to require the school food authority to purchase at least 95 percent domestic products for each food purchase category each school year.

Section 4306 reauthorizes GusNIP, and in Section 4306(6) requires the creation and submission of a report outlining how to best transition the program from the USDA to HHS, as well as for the Office of the Comptroller General to submit a report to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as the Agriculture Committee, examining the policy options relating to this transition.

Title V: Credit

The credit title governs programs that facilitate and support access to credit for small, medium and large producers. Republicans emphasized heightened interest rates in their draft and included provisions to assist new, young, beginning and veteran farmers.

Credit title language seeks to increase access to credit for new, young, beginning and veteran farmers, drawing on many of the provisions to expand access from H.R. 5172. The proposed text also:

  • Eases restrictions on inheritance, including reauthorizing the Heirs Property Relending Program (HPRP) and allowing USDA to enter into cooperative agreements with public interest legal service providers to assist producers in resolving ownership records and transitioning land into agricultural production
  • Establishes a preapproval pilot program for USDA ownership loans
  • Reauthorizes Cooperative Lending Pilot Projects, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Accounts, and maintains the 50 percent direct loan fund set-aside for beginning farmers and ranchers

Other credit-focused marker bills and concepts incorporated into the package include:

  • H.R. 2423, which clarifies that loan data is reported to the Farm Credit Administration (FCA) – not the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – and exempts FCA-regulated entities from the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), which would otherwise require reporting on owners' race, sex and ethnicity
  • H.R. 4736, which expands farm credit institutions' partnership opportunities to support community facilities, including healthcare, childcare and emergency services
  • H.R. 5631, which increases loan limits for a range of direct, guaranteed and microloans
  • H.R. 5877, expediting approval for guaranteed loans of less than $1 million

The title language also addresses a barrier on export finance authority, lowering capital requirements for banks financing agricultural exports from 50 percent to 15 percent.

Title VI: Rural Development

The rural development title of the Farm Bill provides funding and guidance for programs overseen by the USDA Rural Development office. The draft title proposes extensions for many key programs, as well as the introduction of new opportunities. Highlights include:

  • investments in rural broadband, new infrastructure and increasing existing broadband speeds
  • funding programs designed to increase the resiliency and depth of domestic food supply chains
  • expanding support for health programs

Subtitle A includes an amendment to Section 6101(a)(1) of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, expanding the Substance Use Disorder Set Aside for mental, behavioral and maternal health.

Subtitle B establishes the Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program that provides grants, loans and loan guarantees to finance residential broadband service of at least a 25 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream transmission capacity and a 3 Mbps upstream transmission capacity. It also establishes the Innovative Broadband Advancement Program to provide loans and/or grants to demonstrate innovative broadband technologies or methods of deployment that decrease costs and increase broadband speeds in rural areas. It clarifies that the USDA secretary is not authorized to regulate rates charged for broadband service under the Rural Electrification Act of 1936.

Subtitle C establishes a Rural Energy Savings Program to finance improvements in cost-effective energy efficiency measures in rural areas. It also includes language promoting the adoption and development of precision agriculture through the development of voluntary, consensus-based interconnectivity standards, guidelines and best practices for precision agriculture. In addition, it establishes a program to supply guaranteed loans to entities seeking to start or expand projects intended to increase the capacity of the domestic food supply chain.

The title language proposes a new, mobile and expanded meat processing and rendering grant program to increase resiliency, diversify, improve compliance, reduce barriers to entry to the meat industry and otherwise innovate the meat and poultry industry. It also establishes the Expanding Childcare in Rural America Initiative to address the availability, quality and cost of childcare in rural areas through programs intended to promote community facility development, business and industry direct and guaranteed loans, and intermediary relending.

Finally, this subtitle establishes a Rural Development Innovation Center to promote and facilitate innovation in the administration and implementation of rural development programs and initiatives.

Subtitle D further amends the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act by 1) continuing a national rural water and wastewater circuit rider program originally established through the Rural Utilities Service to help rural water systems operate effectively and efficiently, 2) establishing a zero- and low-interest loan program for distressed water systems and 3) providing rural healthcare facilities with access to grants, contracts and cooperative agreements for technical assistance and training tailored to the unique needs of differing healthcare facilities.

Title VII: Research, Extension, and Related Maters

The research, extension and related matters title provides funding for many programs that bolster or complement the USDA's abilities to understand and address scientific challenges impacting food and agricultural production. The research, extension and related matters title includes the following highlights:

  • provides more tools for the agriculture secretary to address regional and practice-specific veterinarian shortages
  • facilitates research at community colleges to improve workforce training, education and research challenges in food and agriculture production
  • authorizes several programs to address acute challenges related to fertilizer use, tropical plant health, wildfires, invasive species, microplastics, and mechanization and automation to benefit specialty crop producers
  • creates centers of excellence around the country to to improve research and extension activities addressing a range of challenges impacting food and agriculture production
  • establishes an Aquaculture Advisory Committee to improve technical assistance programs benefiting aquaculture farmers
  • facilitates cooperation between the USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
  • establishes the Agriculture Innovation Corps to facilitate technology transfer and increase the economic impact of federally funded research

In order to address the acute and growing shortage of veterinarians in certain regions of the country, title language would give the agriculture secretary greater latitude in 1) determining veterinary shortage situations (for example, by region or specialty), 2) utilizing program resources to address veterinary shortages and 3) streamlining the grant process designed to address the veterinary shortage, especially in rural areas.

Several programs under the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977 are extended through 2029. These include the 1) Agricultural and Food Policy Research Centers (Section 7106), 2) education grants for institutions serving Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian students (Section 7107), 3) Nutrition Education Program (Section 7108) and 4) continuing animal health and disease research (Section 7109).

The title language includes several provisions addressing education. It expands funding and programs for research, extension and education at 1890 land grant universities, including Tuskegee University, as well as at Hispanic-serving institutions. It authorizes the creation of grant programs "to eligible institutions in order to strengthen United States economic competitiveness and to promote international market development…" and partnerships between eligible institutions and international partners institutions to promote the exchange and dissemination of agricultural research. It also authorizes the agriculture secretary to make competitive grants to qualifying community college agriculture and natural resources programs "to conduct workforce training, education, research, and outreach activities relating to food and agricultural sciences."

Specific to research initiatives, this title broadens the scope of the US-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development (BARD) fund to include as eligible other signatories to the Abraham Accords Declaration and establishes a BARD fund accelerator to support mid-stage research. It provides for the examination of the "potential benefits and opportunities for supplemental and alternative crops (including winter-planted rapeseed and winter-planted canola crops)." It seeks to ensure the Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority (AgARDA) prioritizes research that seeks to overcome barriers to  the development of technologies, tools, products and projects that enhance export competitiveness, environmental sustainability, water conservation, and resilience to extreme weather, and plant and animal pests and diseases. The title language also authorizes the agriculture secretary to establish an agriculture and food protection grant program improve domestic capability to protect the food and agricultural system from any chemical, biological, cybersecurity, or bioterrorism attack.

Title language includes, inter alia, several high-priority research and extension initiatives that address 1) fertilizer use efficiency in crops, 2) plant pests and noxious weeds that impact tropical plants, 3) "the impact of wildfire smoke exposure on specialty crops," 4) the impacts of invasive species of plants and animals such as the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), navel orangeworm (Amyelois transitella) and spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii)," 5) "the agricultural impacts of microplastics and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances" and 6) specialty crop mechanization and automation research.

Title language would authorize the agriculture secretary to create centers of excellence "for the purpose of carrying out research, extension, and education activities," with a focus on a wide range of factors impacting food and agriculture production. Institutions eligible to host or co-host a center of excellence include 1862 institutions, 1890 institutions, 1994 institutions, non-land grant colleges of agriculture and Hispanic-serving agricultural colleges or universities.

Title language proposes efforts to help specialty crop and aquaculture producers. One title section authorizes the agriculture secretary to establish "a competitive research and extension grant program to award grants to eligible entities to increase the competitiveness of specialty crops in the United States." Another section authorizes the agriculture secretary to establish an Aquaculture Advisory Committee to advise on the oversight of programs and provision of technical assistance that benefit aquaculture farmers and businesses.

Title language would establish the Commission on National Agricultural Statistics Service Modernization to evaluate the National Agricultural Statistics Service and deliver recommendations for improving its data collection operations. It would also establish an Agricultural Innovation Corps (the Ag I-Corps) to "promote technology transfer and increase the economic impact of federally funded research."

Title VIII: Forestry

The forestry title remains largely intact, with the existing forestry authorizations extended through 2029. One major change is the addition of the Save Our Sequoias Act to identify giant sequoia groves that have been disturbed or are likely to be disturbed and to establish program and policy recommendations that improve the health and resiliency of giant sequoias.

Other notable title updates include:

  • changes to the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 to define "at-risk community" and to add provisions focused on water source protection and restoration projects
  • amendments to the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 to include a section on agroforestry, a "management system that intentionally integrates trees and shrubs into crop and animal farming systems"
  • improved data collection on national timber resources and inventory under the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act
  • establishment of nursery and seed orchard financial assistance in the form of grants to support eligible projects
  • development of a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) exclusion for high-priority hazard tree activities, which relate to trees posing a visible hazard to people or federal property
  • removal of a requirement under the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act to reinitiate an Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation on an approved land management plan if the ESA listing of a species comes after the approval of a land management plan
  • establishment of a Public-Private Wildfire Technology Deployment and Testbed partnership for new and innovative wildfire presentation, detection, communication and mitigation technologies
  • authorizing the agriculture secretary to enter into cooperative agreements to conduct a prescribed fire on federal land or to conduct a prescribed fire training event
  • establishing a biochar research and demonstration program to advance the commercialization of biochar

Title IX: Energy

The overlap between energy generation and agriculture, whether using farmland or farm feedstocks, continues to grow, but funding for energy title programs remains relatively flat, due largely to budgetary constraints.

Notable changes in the energy title include:

  • the addition of "sustainable aviation fuel" to the definition of advanced biofuel adjustments to the USDA BioPreferred Program (Section 9002) to enhance the federal government's procurement of biobased products and provide better data and information on the nation's bioeconomy
  • providing the agriculture secretary greater discretion to relax the commercial viability requirement for loans issued under the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (Section 9003) to allow for more innovative projects to become eligible for the loan guarantee program
  • mandates a report analyzing the implementation of a national uniform labeling standard for biobased products
  • repeals the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program and the Carbon Utilization and Biogas Education Program
  • evaluates the potential of the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to meaningfully improve financial conditions of agriculture producers or rural small businesses and changes the cost share for grant recipients, with a focus on ensuring project beneficiaries include beginning and/or socially disadvantaged farmers
  • limits USDA funding for ground-mounted solar energy systems and mandates a study on the effects of solar panel installations on farmland utilization

Title X: Horticulture, Marketing, and Regulatory Reform

Many programs in this title have their authorized funding levels increased and programs extended through 2029. There are provisions relating to almonds (Section 10101), maple syrup (Section 10103) and organic milk (Section 10104). Other notable changes include new hemp definition language.

Title highlights include:

  • establishes new requirements for states carrying out activities under the Specialty Crop Block Grant program and increases funding from $85 million to $100 million for FY 2025
  • establishes definitions for hemp that distinguish hemp grown from fiber vs. grown for cannabinoid extraction and revises eligibility and program guidelines for industrial hemp growers
  • amends the Agriculture Marketing Act of 1946 to support local and regional food markets
  • enables the USDA to provide support to organic agriculture production through technical assistance
  • amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, excluding certain substances, and improving uniformity of pesticide labeling
  • evaluates potash, phosphates and other minerals essential to crop production for designation as critical minerals under the Energy Act of 2020
  • establishes the Office of Biotechnology Policy at the USDA to coordinate policy, research and coordination with other federal agencies

Title XI: Crop Insurance

A main feature of the House Republican crop insurance proposal is seeking to meet the growing demand for crop insurance solutions of specialty crop farmers and farms particularly vulnerable to adverse weather events made worse by climate change.

The draft text emphasizes private sector delivery of crop insurance. It also increases coverage options through the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) and Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) programs to lessen pressures on ad hoc disaster assistance programs.

Focusing on private sector insurance, the draft includes provisions enhancing the development process for privately submitted policies, mandating routine reviews for actuarial soundness, increasing funding for activities that bolster compliance and program integrity, increasing inflation caps on administrative and operating expenses, supplementing expenses for providers in states that experience widespread losses, and other changes.

Regarding insurance products for specialty crop farmers, the draft creates a specialty crop advisory committee to focus on policy development and expansion. The draft also supports research and development (R&D) on insurance products related to:

  • whole farm revenue protection
  • harvest incentives
  • wine grape losses due to smoke exposure
  • hurricane and tropical storm coverage
  • frost or freeze index coverage
  • double cropping for winter oilseeds
  • sugar beets
  • alfalfa
  • pulse crops
  • oilseeds
  • mushrooms
  • poultry
  • late planted corn

Finally, expanding on the theme of beginning and veteran farmers, the draft expands premium assistance by extending discounts from the first five years of farming to the first 10 years.

Title XII: Miscellaneous

The miscellaneous title of the Farm Bill contains many important provisions that do not fit neatly under other titles. This section should not be overlooked, as it is often used to signal major policy shifts. Highlights include:

  • prioritizes animal health traceability to reduce the impacts of animal diseases
  • authorizes the agriculture secretary to negotiate animal disease agreements with the aim of securing access market access with trading partners
  • limits the ability of states and subdivisions to impose conditions or standards on certain livestock production outside the state
  • authorizes states to create and implement pilot programs to facilitate the sale of meat and meat products by processors directly to consumers in the state
  • creates new reporting obligations and enforcement tools for the agriculture secretary with respect to foreign ownership of agricultural land
  • limits the adjustments the agriculture secretary can make to the Thrifty Food Plan model and updates key provisions of school lunch programs, including for dairy
  • requires the agriculture secretary to update Congress regarding work to evaluate farm labor costs and impacts on employers

Several provisions address challenges in animal agriculture. Notably, amendments to the Animal Health Protection Act (AHPA) prioritize animal traceability and authorize the agriculture secretary to make $233 million per year available for activities under the act from the CCC for FY 2025 through FY 2029. Further amendments to the AHPA authorize the agriculture secretary to negotiate regionalization, zoning, compartmentalization and other agreements regarding known animal diseases of trade significance.

In response to California Prop 12 and Massachusetts Question 3, which imposed standards on animal production for certain livestock products sold in those states, the miscellaneous title text prohibits a state or subdivision from imposing a standard or condition on the production of covered livestock outside the state or subdivision. Covered livestock are defined as animals raised for slaughter and human consumption, excluding animals raised for egg production.

The title text also establishes the National Detector Dog Training Center to train dogs (and their handlers) to safeguard domestic agriculture from foreign and invasive pests and diseases. The AHPA is also amended to place new restrictions on the import of dogs into the United States, requiring examination by a qualified veterinarian in the country of origin.

The title text provides resources for smaller animal agriculture stakeholders. One provision authorizes the USDA to create Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point guidance and resources to assist small and very small poultry and meat establishments. Another authorizes states to create and implement a pilot program to support custom slaughter establishments by allowing qualifying custom slaughter establishments to sell meat products directly to consumers in the state.

Other title provisions address high-profile issues of concern. One amends the Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994 to require the agriculture secretary to assess and brief Congress on the risks and security vulnerabilities to the nation's food and agriculture critical infrastructure, including foreign acquisition of intellectual property, agricultural assets and land.

Another provision requires the agriculture secretary to establish an Office of the Ombudsman, with a focus on assisting stakeholders (farmers and other consumers of USDA programs) in navigating the civil rights review process.

Foreign ownership of agricultural land also figures prominently in title XII. Subtitle C requires the agriculture secretary to provide information to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) on all foreign agricultural land purchases reported to the agriculture secretary under the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978 (AFIDA). There are also stiffer civil penalties for entities that knowingly fail to submit a report or knowingly submit false or incomplete information as required under AFIDA. Additionally, the agriculture secretary would be required to appoint a Senior Executive Service official to serve as Chief of Operations of Investigative Actions and to staff a team charged with monitoring compliance with AFIDA provisions. Title XII draft text would also require that an AFIDA electronic filing system be established, and for those filings and associated records to be digitized.

Aspects of USDA nutrition programs would also be impacted by draft title XII text. Proposed text would set limits to adjustments of the Thrifty Food Plan ratios for families of different sizes, limiting the frequency with which the agriculture secretary can reevaluate market baskets and prohibiting the agriculture secretary from increasing the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan based on a reevaluation or update under the plan. In addition, an amendment to the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act of 1990 would raise the threshold of scientific evidence needed to justify changes to the dietary guidelines (from preponderance of scientific and medical knowledge to significant scientific agreement). Along these lines, proposed text would require that the Joint U.S.-Canada Dietary Reference Intakes Working Group, in its annual dietary reference intake update, must exclude nondietary factors (including, inter alia, race, ethnicity and social welfare policies).

An amendment to the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act would allow whole and flavored milk to be served in the program. Notably, the language also states that milk fat that comprises the milk provided in the program "shall not be considered saturated fat for purposes of measuring compliance with the allowable average saturated fat content of a meal under section 210.10 of title 7, Code of Federal Regulations."

Finally, the proposed miscellaneous title text would seek to address an issue of growing concern with Mexico's adherence to obligations under a 1944 treaty governing binational water access. Draft text would require the agriculture secretary to submit a report to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees regarding the department authorities and programs available to Texas farmers impacted by Mexico's failure to deliver water in accordance with applicable provisions of the 1944 Treaty Relating to the Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande.


Interested clients should contact Holland & Knight for more details and to determine whether and how these changes might impact their operations.

Information contained in this alert is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. It is not designed to be, and should not be used as, the sole source of information when analyzing and resolving a legal problem, and it should not be substituted for legal advice, which relies on a specific factual analysis. Moreover, the laws of each jurisdiction are different and are constantly changing. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. If you have specific questions regarding a particular fact situation, we urge you to consult the authors of this publication, your Holland & Knight representative or other competent legal counsel.

Related Insights