The start of a new decade holds a lot of promise for American farmers and ranchers, writes Cole Staudt at the American Farm Bureau Federation. Much-anticipated progress in hemp regulation, sustainability, technology and a presidential election will be key items to watch for this year. While 2019 was challenging overall for agriculture, the last few weeks of the year featured promising developments likely to carry over into the new year.
Over the past few years, significant disruptions in key export markets have hit farmers and ranchers hard. Recently completed trade agreements with some of our largest agriculture export markets — Canada, Mexico, Japan, and China — should help provide some certainty. Market Facilitation Program payments have been a lifeline for many farmers who have been impacted by ongoing trade disputes and we should expect a third round of payments in 2020.
There are still significant hurdles to growing, transporting and processing hemp as farmers navigate complex, and sometimes unclear, state, and federal regulations. For the 2020 growing season, farmers have the certainty of the Interim Final Rule from the Agriculture Department, which provides the clarity needed to grow, harvest and test their hemp crop. Last year, USDA extended Whole Farm Revenue Protection coverage to hemp growers for the 2020 crop and announced a pilot insurance program that will provide coverage for some farmers.