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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Agricultural Conservation: A Guide to Programs



Megan Stubbs
Specialist in Agricultural Conservation and Natural Resources Policy

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently administer over 20 programs and subprograms that are directly or indirectly available to assist producers and landowners who wish to practice conservation on agricultural lands. The number, scope, and overall funding of these programs has grown in recent years. This growth can cause some confusion over which problems and conditions each program addresses, and specific program characteristics and performance. The programs are as follows:


  • Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) Program 
  • Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program 
  • Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) 
  • Conservation Operations (CO); Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) 
  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) 
  • CRP—Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) 
  • CRP—Farmable Wetlands Program 
  • Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) 
  • Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) 
  • Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program 
  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) 
  • EQIP—Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) 
  • EQIP—Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) 
  • Farmland Protection Program (FPP) 
  • Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) 
  • Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP) 
  • Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Program 
  • Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program 
  • Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations 
  • Watershed Rehabilitation Program 
  • Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) 
  • Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) 

This tabular presentation provides basic information introducing each of the programs. In each case, a brief program description is followed by information on major amendments in the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246); national scope and availability; states with the greatest participation; the backlog of applications or other measures of continuing interest; program funding authority; FY2012 funding; FY2013 Administration budget request; FY2013 funding where available; statutory authority; the authorization expiration date; and a link to the program’s website.


Date of Report: January 17, 2013
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: R40763
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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Expiring Farm Bill Programs Without a Budget Baseline



Jim Monke
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

The farm bill (the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, P.L. 110-246) provides mandatory funding for many farm bill programs, including the farm commodity programs and some nutrition, conservation, research, bioenergy, horticulture, and rural development programs. Some farm bill programs have baseline beyond the end of the 2008 farm bill, while others do not. Those with continuing baseline essentially have built-in future funding if policymakers decide the programs should continue in their current form.

However, 37 programs that received mandatory funds during the 2008 farm bill are not assumed to continue from a budgetary perspective because they do not have a budgetary baseline beyond FY2012. Notable programs among this group include certain agricultural disaster assistance programs, conservation programs, specialty crop research, organic research and certification, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer programs, rural development, bioenergy, and farmers market promotion programs. If policymakers want to continue these programs in the next farm bill or extension, they will need to pay for the programs with offsets.

Depending on the approach used to estimate a cost to extend the 37 programs for five years, an estimated $9 billion to $14 billion of offsets from other sources may be needed. This is nearly 3% of the $507 billion five-year CBO baseline for farm bill programs (FY2013-FY2017), or 13% of the $108 billion five-year baseline if the nutrition title is excluded. Finding this level of offsets may be a difficult task in a tight budget environment, especially when many observers believe that some of the farm bill baseline may be lost to deficit reduction.

The one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-240) did not provide any additional mandatory funding for any of the 37 programs without baseline. However, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees envisioned providing funding for many of these programs in the five-year farm bills that were debated in 2012 (H.R. 6083 and S. 3240) but that were not enacted.



Date of Report: January 17, 2013
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: R41433
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Monday, January 28, 2013

Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity



Renée Johnson
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Industrial hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa and is of the same plant species as marijuana. However, hemp is genetically different and distinguished by its use and chemical makeup. Hemp has long been cultivated for non-drug use in the production of industrial and other goods. Some estimate that the global market for hemp consists of more than 25,000 products. It can be grown as a fiber, seed, or other dual-purpose crop. Hemp fibers are used in a wide range of products, including fabrics and textiles, yarns and raw or processed spun fibers, paper, carpeting, home furnishings, construction and insulation materials, auto parts, and composites. The interior stalk (hurd) is used in various applications such as animal bedding, raw material inputs, low-quality papers, and composites. Hemp seed and oilcake are used in a range of foods and beverages, and can be an alternative food protein source. Oil from the crushed hemp seed is an ingredient in a range of body-care products and also nutritional supplements. Hemp seed is also used for industrial oils, cosmetics and personal care, and pharmaceuticals, among other composites.

Precise data are not available on the size of the U.S. market for hemp-based products. Current industry estimates report that U.S. retail sales of all hemp-based products may exceed $300 million per year. Because there is no commercial industrial hemp production in the United States, the U.S. market is largely dependent on imports, both as finished hemp-containing products and as ingredients for use in further processing. Under the current U.S. drug policy, all cannabis varieties, including hemp, are considered Schedule I controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA, 21 U.S.C. §§801 et seq.; Title 21 CFR Part 1308.11). As such, while there are legitimate industrial uses, these are controlled and regulated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Strictly speaking, the CSA does not make growing hemp illegal; rather, it places strict controls on its production and enforces standards governing the security conditions under which the crop must be grown, making it illegal to grow without a DEA permit. Currently, cannabis varieties may be legitimately grown for research purposes only. Among the concerns over changing current policies is how to allow for hemp production without undermining the agency’s drug enforcement efforts and regulation of the production and distribution of marijuana.

In the early 1990s a sustained resurgence of interest in allowing commercial cultivation of industrial hemp began in the United States. Several states have conducted economic or market studies, and have initiated or passed legislation to expand state-level resources and production. To date, nine states have legalized the cultivation and research of industrial hemp, including Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia. However, because federal law still prohibits cultivation, a grower still must get permission from the DEA in order to grow hemp, or face the possibility of federal charges or property confiscation, despite having a state-issued permit.

Over the past few Congresses, Representative Ron Paul has introduced legislation that would open the way for commercial cultivation of industrial hemp in the United States (H.R. 1831, 112
th Congress; H.R. 1866, 111th Congress; H.R. 1009, 110th Congress; H.R. 3037, 109th Congress). In the 112th Congress, Senator Ron Wyden similarly introduced S. 3501 in the Senate. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act would amend Section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802(16)) to specify that the term “marijuana” does not include industrial hemp, which the bill would define based on its content of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s primary psychoactive chemical. Such a change could remove low-THC hemp from being covered by the CSA as a controlled substance and subject to DEA regulation, thus allowing for industrial hemp to be grown and processed under some state laws.


Date of Report: December 18, 2012
Number of Pages:34
Order Number: RL32725
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Food Safety Issues for the 113th Congress



Renée Johnson
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Congress passed comprehensive food safety legislation in December 2010 (FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), P.L. 111-353), representing the largest expansion and overhaul of U.S. food safety authorities since the 1930s. FSMA greatly expanded food safety oversight authority at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but did not alter oversight authorities within other federal agencies responsible for food safety, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Given challenges facing FDA in implementing this law and also a continued prevalence of food safety incidents, Congress continues to actively address concerns of the U.S. food safety system.

Numerous agencies share responsibility for regulating food safety; however, FSMA focused on FDA-regulated foods and amended FDA’s existing structure and authorities, in particular the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA; 21 U.S.C. §§301 et seq.). Among its many provisions, FSMA expanded FDA’s authority to conduct a mandatory recall of contaminated food products, enhanced surveillance systems for foodborne illness outbreaks, established preventive controls at some food processing facilities and farms, enhanced FDA’s traceability capacity within the nation’s food distribution channels, increased the number of FDA inspections at domestic and foreign food facilities, and expanded FDA’s authority and oversight of foreign companies that supply food imports to the United States. Since the law was signed in January 2011, FDA has been actively engaged in developing regulations to implement FSMA.

The 113
th Congress will likely continue to monitor FDA’s implementation of the law, and provide oversight over how some provisions are carried out and enforced, as well as FDA’s coordination with other federal agencies, such as those in USDA and the Department of Homeland Security. Under FSMA, FDA is responsible for more than 50 regulations, guidelines, and studies; however, some FDA rules under FSMA have been substantially delayed and it is uncertain whether full implementation of some provisions in the law will meet their expected deadlines. Given delays in the rulemaking process, in August 2012, the Center for Food Safety filed suit in federal court against FDA and the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB), citing the government’s failure to implement several food safety regulations required by FSMA. In January 2013, FDA released two major rules under FSMA that propose new requirements for food facilities and produce growers. Other FDA rules under FSMA continue to be delayed. Implementation of the law will also depend on the availability of discretionary appropriations, which remains uncertain in the current budgetary climate.

In addition, the 113
th Congress may continue to consider changes to other food safety laws and policies that continue to be actively debated in Congress. Among these are food safety initiatives covering meat, poultry, and seafood products; legislation intended to curtail the non-medical use of antibiotics in animal feeds and to ban the use of certain plastic components commonly used in food containers; food labeling; stricter food safety enforcement mechanisms; and the use of plant and animal biotechnology. Several of these issues were actively debated in the 111th Congress during the food safety debate leading up to passage of the FSMA. Several bills debated in previous Congresses were reintroduced in the 112th Congress.

Some in Congress also might continue to advocate for additional policy reforms to existing FDA or USDA food safety laws to address other perceived concerns about the safety of the U.S. food supply. These include concerns about the adequacy of resources and regulatory tools to combat foodborne illness, and concerns about coordination and organization among federal agencies.



Date of Report: January 9, 2013
Number of Pages: 34
Order Number: R42885
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