University of Maryland Extension

Urban farming in the 2018 Farm Bill

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The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, a/k/a “the Farm Bill,” is an omnibus piece of federal legislation covering agriculture, conservation, rural development, research, and food assistance. It has been continuously reauthorized approximately every five years since 1933. What’s in the Farm Bill directly affects how U.S. agriculture operates for the next five years. The 2018 Farm Bill officially recognizes urban farmers—from those with community gardens to those operating multimillion-dollar vertical farms—with the creation of both a new office at the USDA and a research, education, and extension initiative. Specifically, the bill creates the USDA Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production. Congress created the office “to encourage and promote urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural production practices.” The bill:

  • Provides for the assignment of a farm number for rooftop, indoor, and other urban farms.
  • Provides authority to award competitive grants to operate community gardens or not-for-profit farms, educate a community on food systems, nutrition, environmental impacts, and agricultural production, and help offset start-up costs for new and beginning farmers.
  • Establishes an Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Advisory Committee.
  • Establishes pilot projects to increase compost and reduce food waste, and create urban and suburban county committees.

The Farm Bill also establishes the Urban, Indoor, and Other Emerging Agriculture Production Research, Education, and Extension Initiative. This Initiative does the following:

  • Authorizes competitive research and extension grants to support research, education, and extension activities for the purposes of enhancing urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural production.
  • Provides $4 million in mandatory spending for each fiscal year 2019-2023.
  • Requires the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to conduct a census of urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural production.

USDA’s website with info. about the Farm Bill is at https://www.farmers.gov/farmbill.

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