Jun 13, 2018Senate ag committee passes a draft farm bill
The United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry on June 13 marked up and overwhelmingly passed a draft farm bill, called the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, by a vote of 20-1.
U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., applauded the vote in a joint statement.
“The Senate Agriculture Committee’s bipartisan Farm Bill process is a reminder of how things should work in Washington – listening to the folks back home, working through issues with the other side of the aisle, then writing a good bill,” Roberts and Stabenow said in the released statement. “Today marks another important step in the road to getting an on-time Farm Bill enacted into law. We urge our colleagues to support this bill.”
The Senate committee’s legislation now heads to the full U.S. Senate for consideration.
The legislation has the support of more than 115 agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry groups, according to Stabenow and Roberts.
The United Fresh Produce Association highlighted provisions of the bill that are important to the fresh produce industry:
- Full funding for trade programs such as the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program (TASC).
- $80 million in funding for all specialty crops under the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) and new prioritization for mechanization projects.
- $25 million annually for citrus greening research through the Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund.
- $4 million annually for a new research initiative focusing on urban agriculture;
- Reauthorization of the Office of Pest Management Policy.
- Full $85 million in funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) with $5 million set aside for multi-state programs to be administered through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).
- The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) is maintained as a FRESH only program.
- An increase to $50 million in mandatory funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program (FINI).
- A new Harvesting Health Pilot Program that provides a “produce prescription” to those who may be suffering from diet-related conditions.
“In particular for the fresh fruit and vegetable industry, the bill continues and enhances key policy priorities including expanding research and trade resources, increasing access to fresh produce through federal nutrition programs, and providing needed policy and funding on pest and disease exclusion and state block grants,” United Fresh said in a released statement. “Additionally, new programs that help urban agriculture, greenhouse operations, and focus on mechanization research will only further enhance consumers’ access to healthy and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Independent Community Bankers of America President and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey also applauded the vote.
“The bipartisan vote keeps the process of enacting a new farm bill this year moving forward,” she said. “Farmers, ranchers and their lenders need the certainty, predictability and income protections that a five-year farm bill will provide as they struggle through the current era of very low commodity prices, with net farm income down by more than 50 percent since 2013.”
The House of Representatives failed to pass a farm bill in May and is expected to reconsider its own version, H.R. 2 or the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, on Thursday, June 21.
Above: The United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry held a business meeting and passed a draft of a new farm bill on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. Photo: The United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry