Sonny Perdue, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), released the Trump Administration's 2018 Farm Bill and Legislative Principles on Jan. 24, 2018. "These principles will be used as a road map. They are our way of letting Congress know what we've heard from the hardworking men and women of American agriculture," Perdue said in his opening remarks before a town hall in Mifflintown, Pa.

What Is Included?

The list of priorities calls for legislation that supports farm production and conservation. The USDA's priorities include promoting innovative crop insurance products, supporting young farmers by increasing access to land and capital, and better supporting conservation programs. In addition, the bill calls for safeguarding America's domestic food supply by protecting the integrity of the USDA organic-certified seal and modernizing tools that bolster biosecurity, prevent surveillance, improve emergency response and bolster border security. The secretary also recommends investing in research that puts the United States at the forefront of food and agriculture scientific development; improving American market competitiveness by incentivizing strong financial partnerships and accessing foreign markets; promoting rural infrastructure development, including broadband; and incentivizing private stewardship and retention of forest land. USDA priorities also call for reducing waste, fraud and abuse of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by implementing stricter limits on food stamps for able-bodied adults unless they work or take part in job training or workfare programs.

What Is Not Included?

While the USDA's list of principles are comprehensive in that they address each title of the 2018 Farm Bill, they fail to directly address many of the concerns of various groups seeking to shape the bill. One such group, the 40-plus tribes, tribal organizations and associate members of the Native Farm Bill Coalition, has been working diligently for principles that would require the USDA to treat Indian tribal governments and communities on par with other governments and communities in the allocation and administration of federal programs under the Farm Bill. Unfortunately, the USDA's principles make no direct references to parity for tribes or to tribal administration under self-determination authority. Also overlooked are the concerns of environmentalists regarding their request for more stringent requirements for farmers to prevent soil erosion and to enhance water quality. It is notable that the USDA's January 2018 list of priorities sidesteps President Donald Trump's May 2017 proposal to cut funding for the federally subsidized crop insurance program and SNAP, as a way to offset disaster spending.

Tribes seeking further explanation on how the 2018 Farm Bill could affect them, may contact the authors of this alert or any member of the Native American Law Group.