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US: Farm Bill Conference Committee delivers final bill

The 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee has released a final bill for Congress to vote on. Agriculture Committee Chairmen Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Rep. K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and Ranking Members Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., released the text of the bipartisan, bicameral 2018 Farm Bill conference report.

“The 2018 Farm Bill is our opportunity to make the American food and agriculture systems work more efficiently. I’m pleased to say we have done just that in this conference report,” said Chairman Roberts. “We started this journey nearly two years ago. Since then, the Senate Agriculture Committee has held dozens of hearings, listened to more than 90 witnesses, and received thousands of public comments. As promised, this farm bill provides much needed certainty and predictability for all producers – of all crops – across all regions across the country. I thank my counterparts in the Senate and House for coming to – and staying at – the table to reach a bipartisan, bicameral agreement for rural America.”

“America’s farmers and ranchers are weathering the fifth year of severe recession, so passing a farm bill this week that strengthens the farm safety net is vitally important,” said Chairman Conaway. “I am grateful to the President, Secretary Perdue and my leadership for standing fast for the hard-working farm and ranch families that clothe and feed us. I also appreciate the members of the conference committee for bringing this process one step closer to completion.”

“By working across the aisle, we overcame many differences to deliver a strong, bipartisan farm bill for our farmers, families, and rural communities,” said Ranking Member Stabenow. “The 2018 Farm Bill is a good bill for our farmers and everyone who eats. Working together, we continued to expand the diversity of our agricultural economy, maintained a strong food and farm safety net, created new opportunities in our small towns and rural communities, and made significant investments in land and water conservation. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels – it’s time to get the bill across the finish line as soon as possible. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.”

“This bill is a strong start to addressing the issues our producers are facing right now, particularly our dairy farmers,” said Ranking Member Peterson. “The bill’s new provisions will offer more flexible coverage for lower cost when dairy farmers need it most, and provide producers more tools to manage their risk. It also invests $300 million in the prevention and response for animal pests and disease. More broadly, the bill invests in research, outreach to beginning & underserved producers, local and organic food production, bioenergy, and access to new markets. It also addresses broadband, farm stress and mental health issues, and the opioid epidemic in rural areas. It’s the product of strong bipartisan work in both the House and the Senate, and it’s something I’m proud to encourage folks to vote for.”

Perdue: "Strong safety net for the farm economy"
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement regarding the release of the 2018 Farm Bill conference report: “I welcome the introduction of the Farm Bill conference committee report, and hope the Congress can approve this legislation expeditiously. This legislation maintains a strong safety net for the farm economy, invests in critical agricultural research, and will promote agriculture exports through robust trade programs. While we would have liked to see more progress on work requirements for SNAP recipients and forest management reforms, the conference agreement does include several helpful provisions and we will continue to build upon these through our authorities. As farmers prepare to make decisions about next season, I commend the leadership of the conference committee in producing a bill that can be passed before the year’s end. If Congress passes this legislation, I will encourage the President to sign it.”

ASTA applauds movement on Farm Bill
“With the Senate’s passage of the conference report today, our nation is one step closer to a more secure and sustainable future for America’s agriculture producers,” said ASTA President & CEO Andrew LaVigne. “Our farmers are facing tough times, and a strong Farm Bill is key to ensuring American competitiveness in the years ahead. We applaud the Senate’s quick action, and urge the House to vote on passage as soon as possible.”

ASTA is encouraged to see many seed industry priorities included in the final bill. The bill contains language to increase funding for USDA cooperator programs, strengthen intellectual property protections, and provide critical funding for conservation and research programs.

"Good for farmers markets, family farmers, and local food"
“Thank you to everyone who invited public officials to your markets, made calls to Congress, traveled to DC to meet with legislators, analyzed and drafted policy, responded to surveys, and shared information about your work with FMC,” said FMC Executive Director, Jen Cheek. “The success of this farm bill is a result of a multi-year effort from the farmers market community to make our collective voice heard.”

“Particularly viewed from where we were 6-9 months ago, this bill is great news for our members and agricultural communities, but politics is an ongoing process,” said FMC Policy Director, Ben Feldman.

"Farm Bill delivers victories for beginning farmers, organic/local food"
“By providing key 'tiny but mighty' farm bill programs with permanent funding, the 2018 Farm Bill will make a critical investment in the future of American agriculture,” said Juli Obudzinski, Interim Policy Director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). “No longer will the family farmers who rely on these programs to start or grow their small businesses, or the food and farm organizations who provide direct training and outreach services, have to worry about the fate of these vital resources each farm bill cycle.”

American Farm Bureau Endorses 2018 Farm Bill
“This 2018 farm bill is a complete package – one that will serve all Americans,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Farm and ranch families in particular will find a good degree of risk management support they need to help them weather the prolonged downturn in the agricultural economy that many of us are facing. Next year, we are going to face continued challenges across farm and ranch country, and this new farm bill gives us the tools we will need to weather this ongoing storm.”

California Farm Bureau urges House to pass farm bill
“With its provisions for nutrition programs as well as farm programs, the farm bill is important in the city as well as on the farm,” CFBF President Jamie Johansson said. “We thank Senators Feinstein and Harris for voting for it, and will urge California congressional members to follow suit.”

Johansson said the bill makes a number of improvements to conservation programs, including the popular Environmental Quality Incentives Program. It continues specific programs for fruit, vegetable, nut and nursery producers, as well as initiatives to benefit organic farming. The bill will also enhance trade programs to encourage exports of American farm goods.

Organic Trade Association hails huge organic milestones
The Organic Trade Association said the Farm Bill as proposed by the conference committee makes momentous steps to move organic agriculture forward, and urged quick passage of the bill. The association said the organic priorities contained in the legislation represent a “major policy win” by organic champions, who included association members and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

“This Farm Bill marks a key milestone for organic with $50 million in annual funding for the flagship Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) program by 2023, more than double the current funding level,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “This will ensure stable, baseline mandatory funding for the program, and will enable organic farmers to meet the unique challenges they face. The bill also includes important steps to modernize and speed up federal efforts to prevent organic fraud, to create a transparent marketplace, and to ensure that every stakeholder in the organic chain is playing by the rules.”

CropLife America applauds Farm Bill Conference leadership
CropLife America commends the leadership of the conference committee in producing a Farm Bill conference report that addresses important issues, as farmers prepare for their next growing season.

“We especially applaud the work of the conference committee in addressing how pesticides are reviewed under the Endangered Species Act,” said Beau Greenwood, Executive Vice President for Government Relations. “We look forward to working closely with Congress and all stakeholders to identify measures to better protect species and allow for a more predictable pesticide registration process,” concluded Greenwood.

Western Growers statement
Western Growers President & CEO Tom Nassif said: “We are pleased that the farm bill negotiators have completed their task as the 2018 Farm Bill acknowledges the growing importance of the specialty crop industry to American agriculture and offers real progress on many of our top priorities, including funding for mechanization research and development, as well as improved access to crop insurance tools.

“Additional achievements in the 2018 Farm Bill include funding increases for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative; the continuation of funding for vital citrus greening research; the creation of an Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority pilot program, an innovative, private sector-modeled approach to funding high-priority research needs; positive reforms to the National Organics Standards Board; improved access to rural water infrastructure funds for our local communities; and a waiver of the adjusted gross income limit for conservation program eligibility, ensuring our growers will not be excluded from smart stewardship efforts simply because of their financial viability."

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