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2019 Farm Bill Signed into Law

The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, commonly referred to as the Farm Bill, is an omnibus, multi-year law that governs an array of agricultural and food programmes. It was set to expire at the end of 2018 but this “must-pass” legislation was signed into law by President Trump on 20 December.

Congress passed the US$867 billion Farm Bill with strong bi-partisan support, spurred in part by pressure from farmers battered by President Trump’s trade war with mainland China. The Farm Bill reauthorises the U.S. Department of Agriculture through fiscal year 2023 and modifies USDA programmes that address commodity support, conservation, trade and international food aid, nutrition assistance, farm credit, rural development, research and extension activities, forestry, horticulture, and crop insurance.

Four sections of the bill – nutrition, crop insurance, conservation and farm commodity support – generally account for 99 percent of the total spending authorisation, with the nutrition title accounting for some 80 percent of the total. Other Farm Bill provisions provide commodity support that affects U.S. international trade policy, including dairy products, sugar policy, biomass production, and other price and commodity assistance to farmers. A very small percentage of the total authorisation of the Farm Bill goes to USDA’s food aid, export market development and export credit guarantee programmes.

The bill also modifies and clarifies the organic certification requirements for imported agricultural products. USDA is directed to work with CBP to establish an organic agricultural product imports inter-agency working group to ensure the validity of organic certification for imported products, along with continuing pest inspection for all imported products, including organic products. There is also a reporting requirement on the importation of live dogs into the United States, as well as provisions relating to the export of green sea urchin.

One of most publicised changes in the new law is that hemp, a part of the cannabis plant, would be removed from the federal list of controlled substances and would even make hemp producers eligible for the federal crop insurance programme. Analysts indicate that hemp could grow into a US$20 billion industry by 2022.

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