Economic Support to Agriculture



Resources and Updates

Documents & Links   








The Politico Morning Ag free news subscription is the one of the very best sources for breaking news stories on food and ag issues. For example, the following passage describes the support to agriculture in the COVID-19 Relief bill, from the Morning Ag March 30, 2020 issue:  


'UNPRECEDENTED': SIZING UP THE FEDERAL FARM RESCUE: Trump on Friday signed the $2 trillion stimulus package, including some $23 billion in extra aid for agriculture. Now it's the Agriculture Department's turn to figure out how to distribute those emergency dollars to farmers and ranchers dealing with falling commodity prices.

There are few strings attached to the farm provisions, even though Democrats were wary of setting up another "slush fund" for USDA to disperse funds across the industry as officials saw fit, Pro Ag's Catherine Boudreau writes this a.m.

That mistrust stemmed in part from how the administration designed its more than $23 billion trade bailout program, which critics said unfairly benefited Southern states, wealthy farmers and even foreign meatpackers.

"We'll be monitoring implementation to hold USDA accountable to distributing aid fairly and encourage USDA to follow the bipartisan payment limits set by the farm bill," said a spokesperson for Senate Ag ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who has criticized the department for alleged inequities in its trade relief programs.

Joseph Glauber, former USDA chief economist, said the stimulus funds, trade aid and traditional farm subsidies could total around $50 billion in fiscal 2020 alone. "Unprecedented to say the least," said Glauber, now a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Implementing the farm stimulus plan could prove even trickier than the trade bailout, which was based on the tariff damage to specific commodities and counties. "I am not sure how you would separate out price impacts from COVID-19 versus other market factors," Glauber said in an email. "My guess is that the distribution and amounts will look a lot like 2019."

Funds for farmers markets: The stimulus is the first disaster relief package to explicitly include local and regional food markets, according to Ferd Hoefner, senior strategic advisor at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

By the numbers: The group pointed to research estimating that those markets could lose $1.3 billion between March and May. The overwhelming majority of farms supplying those markets are small, and about a quarter are new farmers, per USDA data.

2018 Farm Bill Resources & Information

The 2018 Farm Bill passed in December 2018, subsequent to the publication of Food, Farming & Sustainability. Many of the 2014 Farm Bill resources in the text are still appropriate, and many programs carried over into the the 2018 Farm Bill. Indeed, the framework of this omnibus legislation is very similar. However, 2018 Farm Bill did include some changes as well as some important new programs. Below are links to the actual legislation, a summary from the Conference Committee and the comprehensive Conference Committee Report, explaining the bill section-by-section. Below these fundamental documents are links to excellent CRS Reports that provide easy-to-read but comprehensive explanations.

Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018

Conference Summaries

Conference Committee Report

Congressional Research Service Reports on the 2018 Farm Bill:

(now available directly on the CRS website

Agricultural Conservation: A Guide to Programs, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. No. R40763  (Aug 15, 2019).


Proposed Relocation/Realignment of USDA’s ERS and NIFA, Cong. Res. Serv. In Focus Rep. No. IF11166 (Aug 13, 2019).


2018 Farm Bill Primer: Support for Indian Tribes, Cong. Res. Serv.  In Focus Rep. No. IF11287 (Aug 12, 2019).


Hemp-Derived Cannabidiol (CBD) and Related Hemp Extracts (Renée Johnson), Cong. Res. Serv. In Focus Rep. No. IF10391  (Jun 21, 2019).


2018 Farm Bill Primer: Support for Local Food Systems (Renée Johnson, Tadlock Cowan, Randy Schnepf, Alison Aussenber), Cong. Res. Serv. In Focus Rep. IF11252 (June 18, 2019)


U.S. Farm Program Eligibility and Payment Limits Under the 2018 Farm Bill (P.L. 115-334) (Randy Schnepf, Megan Stubbs), Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. No. R45659 (June 14, 2019)


Emergency Assistance for Agricultural Land Rehabilitation (Megan Stubbs), Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. No.  R42854 (June 11, 2019).

2018 Farm Bill Primer: Beginning Farmers and Ranchers (Renée Johnson, Tadlock Cowan), Cong. Res. Serv. In Focus Rep. No. IF11227 (May 28, 2019).


2018 Farm Bill Primer: Rural Development Programs (Tadlock Cowan) Cong. Res. Serv. In Focus Rep. No. IF11225 (May 23, 2019).


2018 Farm Bill Primer: Agricultural Trade and Food Assistance (Anita Regmi, Alyssa R. Casey), Cong. Res. Serv. In Focus Rep. No. IF11223 (May 22, 2019).


Farm Commodity Provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill (P.L. 115-334) (Randy Schnepf), Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. No. R45730 (May 21, 2019).


2018 Farm Bill Primer: Support for Urban Agriculture (Renée Johnson, Tadlock Cowan),

Cong. Res. Serv. In Focus Rep. No. IF11210 (May 16, 2019).


2018 Farm Bill Primer: Title II Conservation Programs (Megan Stubbs), Cong. Res. Serv. In Focus Rep. No. IF11199 (May 03, 2019).


2018 Farm Bill Primer: Dairy Programs (Joel L. Greene), Cong. Res. Serv. In Focus Rep. No. IF11188 (Apr. 24, 2019).


Agricultural Conservation in the 2018 Farm Bill (Megan Stubbs), Cong. Serv. Rep. R45698  

(Apr. 18, 2019).


2018 Farm Bill Primer: ARC and PLC Support Programs (Randy Schnepf), Cong. Res. Serv. In Focus Rep. No. IF11161 (Apr. 03, 2019).


2018 Farm Bill Primer: Program Eligibility and Payment Limits (Randy Schnepf, Megan Stubbs)

Cong. Res. Serv. In Focus Rep. No. IF11165 (Apr 03, 2019).


2018 Farm Bill Primer: The Farm Safety Net (Randy Schnepf), Cong. Res. Serv. In Focus Rep. No. IF11163 (Apr. 03, 2019).


2018 Farm Bill Primer: Title I Commodity Programs (Randy Schnepf), Cong. Res. Serv. In Focus Rep. No. IF11164 (Apr. 03, 2019).


Broadband Loan and Grant Programs in the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (Lennard G. Kruger, Alyssa R. Casey), Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. No. RL33816 (Mar. 22, 2019).


Defining Hemp: A Fact Sheet (Renée Johnson), Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. No. R44742 (Mar. 22, 2019).


2018 Farm Bill Primer: What Is the Farm Bill? (Renée Johnson, Jim Monke), Cong. Res. Serv. In Focus Rep. No. IF11126 (Mar. 08, 2019).


Budget Issues That Shaped the 2018 Farm Bill (Jim Monke), Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. No. R45425 

(Feb. 28, 2019).


2018 Farm Bill Primer: Energy Title (Kelsi Bracmort), Cong. Res. Serv. In Focus Rep. No. IF10639 (Feb. 27, 2019).


The 2018 Farm Bill (P.L. 115-334): Summary and Side-by-Side Comparison (Mark A. McMinimy, Sahar Angadjivand, et al), Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. No. R45525 (Feb. 22, 2019)


2018 Farm Bill Primer: Hemp Cultivation and Processing (Renée Johnson), Cong. Res. Serv. In Focus Rep. No. IF11088 (Jan 30, 2019).

Trade Assistance / Tariffs Imposed by President Trump

  • Farm Policy: USDA's 2019 Trade Aid Package, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. No. R45865 (Aug. 2019, updated Sept. 4, 2019) (this excellent report by Randy Schnepf provides the best explanation available on the latest round of trade assistance promised by the Trump administration).


In the news:  


NFU WORRIES TRADE AID COULD ERODE SUPPORT FOR NEXT FARM BILL: Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, told reporters on Thursday he's concerned that the billions in trade aid the Trump administration has been pouring out to farmers could end up undermining political support for the next farm bill.


More money than the farm bill: Johnson noted that the $16 billion aid pledged for this year exceeds total spending on Title I farm programs in a year, a part of the sweeping legislation that already has somewhat tenuous support as political power shifts away from rural voters. Congress also relaxed payment limits for the trade aid program, making it easier for millionaires to qualify.


"That's a dangerous thing," Johnson said of the rolled back payment limits. He added: "I think there's a lot of urban congressman that are going to look at this and say, 'You know what there was a lot of damage done in my state in this industry or that industry as a result of this trade disruption — none of my guys got a nickel.'"


The last time an administration used the Commodity Credit Corporation, the program USDA is using to pay the aid to farmers, for what "one might argue [was] for political purposes, their hands were immediately slapped," he said. "Congress put riders on appropriations bills and said you will not do this again."

On November 12, 2019, the Senate Democrats released a highly critical report that claims that the trade assistance program has overcompensated southern farmers, wealthier farmers, and foreign-owned corporations. The report calls for changes to the calculations.

Background Reports

Linked below are government and NGO reports that provide helpful information about the topics covered in this chapter.



Relevant USDA Report​s (by year)




Developing Automation and Mechanization for Specialty Crops: A Review of U.S. Department of Agriculture ProgramsUSDA, ERS (Feb. 5, 2020)

Beginning Farm Operators and Spouses More Likely To Work Off the Farm Than Established Counterparts, USDA, ERS (Feb. 3, 2020)

In Recent Years, Most Expiring Land in the Conservation Reserve Program Returned to Crop Production, USDA, ERS (Feb. 3, 2020)



Rural America At a Glance, 2018 Edition, USDA, ERS (Nov. 2018).

Current Indicators of Farm Sector Financial Health, USDA, Amber Waves (July 2, 2018).

Federal Risk Management Tools for Agricultural Producers: An Overview, USDA, ERS, Econ. Res. Rep. 250 (June 2018).

Lower Conventional Corn Prices and Strong Demand for Organic Livestock Feed Spurred Increased U.S. Organic Corn Production in 2016, USDA, Amber Waves (June 4, 2018).

The 2012-13 U.S. Drought Heightened Federal Disaster Assistance Payments for Livestock Producers, USDA, Amber Waves (May 7, 2018).

Impacts of the Value-Added Producer Grant Program on Business Outcomes, USDA, Amber Waves (May 7, 2018).

The Effect of Conservation Payments on Farmer Adoption Varies Across Conservation Practices, USDA, Amber Waves (May 7, 2018).

USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant Program and Its Effect on Business Survival and Growth, USDA, ERS, Economic Research Report 248 (May 2018).

More Microloans Issued in Regions With Higher Concentrations of Small Farms and Beginning Farmers, Women, and Minorities, USDA, Amber Waves (Apr. 2, 2018).

Examining Consolidation in U.S. Agriculture, USDA, Amber Waves (Mar. 14, 2018).

Three Decades of Consolidation in U.S. Agriculture, USDA, ERS, Econ. Inform. Bull. 189 (Mar. 2018).


Federal Natural Disaster Assistance Programs for Livestock Producers, 2008–2016, USDA, ERS, Econ. Inform. Bull. 187 (Jan. 2018).


U.S. Cropland Is Consolidating Into Larger Farms, USDA, Amber Waves (Dec. 19, 2017).

The Evolving Distribution of Payments From Commodity, Conservation, and Federal Crop Insurance Programs, USDA, ERS, Econ. Inform. Bull. 184) (Nov. 2017).

Study Finds Crop Insurance Has Small Effect on Environmental Quality, USDA, ERS, Amber Waves (Sept. 2017).


Gathering Experimental Evidence To Improve the Design of Agricultural Programs, USDA, ERS, Amber Waves (Aug. 2017).

Applications for the Noninsured Crop Disaster Program Increased After the Agricultural Act of 2014, USDA, ERS, Amber Waves (July 2017).


2014 Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL) Survey, USDA, ERS  (Mar. 2, 2017) (Details about agricultural land for 25 States, 6 regions, and the contiguous United States).


USDA Agricultural Projections to 2026, Interagency Agricultural Projections Committee, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board, USDA, Long-term Projections Rep. OCE-2017-1 (Feb. 2017).

Secretary Tom Vilsack, The People’s Department: Growing a Stronger and Healthier Future for America, Cabinet Exit Memo (Jan. 5, 2017). 


USDA, Factsheet on Nonrecourse Marketing Assistance Loans (including loan rates).

America's Diverse Family Farms, USDA, ERS USDA, ERS, Econ. Inform. Bull. 164  (Dec. 2016).  

The Changing Organization and Well-Being of Midsize U.S. Farms, 1992-2014, USDA, ERS, Econ. Res. Rep. ERR-219 (Oct. 2016).

Selected Charts 2016, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, USDA, ERS, Admin. Pub. AP-073 (Oct. 2016).

How Do Time and Money Affect Agricultural Insurance Uptake? A New Approach to Farm Risk Management Analysis, USDA, ERS, ERR-212, (Aug. 2016).

Relevant CRS Reports:

CRS reports can be challenging to find, as the Congressional Research Service does not post them directly. Some private sites post them for public dissemination, but searching can be difficult. Therefore, relevant reports will continue to be downloaded and available here.  For additional reports, visit


U.S. Farm Income Outlook for 2018, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. No. R45117 (Sept. 21, 2018).

Farm Bills: Major Legislative Actions, 1965-2018, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. R45210 (Sept. 2, 2018).

Federal Crop Insurance: Delivery Subsidies in Brief, Cong. Res. Serv. R45291 (Aug. 20, 2018).

Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2019 Appropriations, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. 45230 (Aug. 3, 2018).

Seed Cotton as a Farm Program Crop: In Brief, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. 45143 (Aug. 1, 2018).

The House and Senate 2018 Farm Bills (H.R. 2): A Side-by-Side Comparison with Current Law, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. R45275 (July 27, 2018).

Agricultural Disaster Assistance, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. RS21212 (July, 26, 2018).

Hemp as an Agricultural CommodityCong. Res. Serv. Rep. RL32725 (July 9 , 2018).

The House Agriculture Committee’s 2018 Farm Bill (H.R. 2): A Side-by-Side Comparison with Current Law, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. R45197 (June 29, 2018). 

Federal Crop Insurance: Program Overview for the 115th Congress, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. R45193 (May 10, 2018).

Farm Bill Programs Without a Budget Baseline Beyond FY2018, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. R44758 (May 2, 2018).


What Is the Farm Bill? Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. RS22131(Apr. 26, 2018).  


The Commodity Credit Corporation: In Brief, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. R40152 (Apr. 19, 2018).


U.S. Farm Commodity Support: An Overview of Selected Programs, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. 45165 (Apr. 17, 2018)

Agricultural Conservation: A Guide to Programs, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. R40763 (Apr. 17, 2018).




Federal Milk Marketing Orders: An Overview, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. 45044 (Dec. 13, 2017).

Potential Effects of a U.S. NAFTA Withdrawal: Agricultural Markets, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. 45018 (Nov. 16, 2017).

Farm Safety-Net Payments Under the 2014 Farm Bill: Comparison by Program Crop, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. R44914 (Aug. 11, 2017).


The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and U.S. Agriculture, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. R44875 (June 22, 2017).


NASS and U.S. Crop Production Forecasts: Methods and Issues, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. R44814 (Apr. 13, 2017).


Previewing a 2018 Farm Bill, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. R44784 (Mar. 15, 2017).

Science and Technology Issues in the 115th Congress, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. R44786 (Mar. 14, 2017).

Defining "Industrial Hemp": A Fact Sheet, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. R44742 (Mar. 6, 2017).

U.S. Farm Program Eligibility and Payment LimitsCong. Res. Serv. Rep. No. R44739  (Jan. 17, 2017).



USDA’s Actively Engaged in Farming (AEF) Requirement, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. R44656 (Oct. 19, 2016).
Agricultural Research: Background and Issues, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. R40819
(Oct. 6, 2016).
Conservation Compliance and U.S. Farm Policy, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. R42459
(Oct. 6, 2016).

U.S. Peanut Program and Issues, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. No. 

R44156 (Sept. 27, 2016).  


 Farm Safety Net Programs: Background and Issues, Con. Res. Serv. Rep. No. R43758 (Aug. 21, 2015).

Status of the WTO Brazil-U.S. Cotton Case, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. No. R43336 (Oct. 1, 2014).  See, also, Randy Schnepf, 2014 Farm Bill Provisions and WTO Compliance, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. No. R43817 (Apr. 22, 2015).


The 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79): Summary and Side-by-Side, Cong. Serv. Rep. No. R43076 (Feb. 12, 2014). 

Farm Commodity Provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79)Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. No. R43448 (Mar. 28, 2014).


Sugar Provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79), Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. No. R42551 (Mar. 21, 2014).

Specialty Crop Provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79), Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. No. R43632 (July 10, 2014).

Fruits, Vegetables, and Other Specialty Crops: Selected Farm Bill and Federal Programs, Cong. Res. Serv. Rep. No. R42771 (July 11, 2014).


Other Resources

  • The Farm Bill Enterprise resource website (Developed by a consortium of law schools led by the Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic) 


  • When Congress began its consideration of the 2018 Farm Bill, a number of groups presented proposals and reports. Some of the most notable are linked here:  

Heritage Foundation Report: Farms and Free Enterprise;

Brandon Willis, Farm Policy Facts,  How Heritage Foundation’s U.S. Farm Policy Proposals Would Put America Last (Rebuttal to Heritage Foundation Report);

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, An Agenda for the 2018 Farm Bill;

  • Additional teaching resources to explain the concepts of basis, decoupled/coupled payments, and some of the most common farm programs:  





Politico offers a free daily agricultural law news service with updates on farm policy developments.

Professor Allen Olson, farm policy expert with extensive experience practicing agricultural law teaches Farm Programs & Crop Insurance  in the LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law. 






2010 - present

2010 - present

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