WASHIGNTON — Editor’s note: The following statements have been released after lawmakers announced they had reached an agreement on the 2018 farm bill. The legislation will set federal agricultural and food policy for the next five years, and will provide $400 billion to agricultural research, conservation programs, food aid and more.
Secretary Perdue Statement on Release of Farm Bill Conference Report
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today 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.”
NFU Statement on 2018 Farm Bill Compromise
The Farm Bill conference committee conferees today released the text of a compromise Farm Bill, largely the effort of House and Senate Agriculture Committee leadership resolving differences between the House and Senate versions of the 2018 Farm Bill. If approved by both chambers within the next week and a half, the legislation will be on President Trump’s desk and awaiting approval before the end of the year.
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson released the following statement in response to the Farm Bill compromise:
“Passage of the 2018 Farm Bill cannot come soon enough for American family farmers and ranchers, who need the certainty of the Farm Bill safety net to continue to weather the worst farm economy decline in more than thirty years. We also need the bill to continue the sustainability gains and emergence of new markets for farmers that have been supported by Farm Bill programs.
“Senate and House agriculture leaders and their staff have worked tirelessly to resolve differences in the chambers’ respective farm bills, and they’ve produced a bill that represents a critical step toward providing the relief and certainty farmers need amidst struggling markets due to oversupply and trade volatility.
“We strongly urge Congress to approve the farm bill before the end of the year.”
–National Farmers Union
American Farm Bureau Endorses 2018 Farm Bill, Board Unanimously Calls for Final Approval
The American Farm Bureau Federation’s board of directors today voted unanimously to endorse final approval of the 2018 farm bill on the strength of its comprehensive provisions that support production agriculture, including measures related to risk management, crop insurance and programs that facilitate market development.
“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.”
Duvall said the AFBF board expressed its appreciation to House and Senate agricultural leaders – Senators Pat Roberts and Debbie Stabenow and Representatives Michael Conaway and Collin Peterson – for the months of hard work they invested in crafting the bill.
“We are thankful the Agriculture committees have stayed true to their mission to serve the American farmer and rancher and our nation’s consumers,” Duvall said. “We call on Congress to pass the final bill, and we encourage President Trump to sign it.”
–American Farm Bureau Federation
Farm Bill Delivers Victories for Beginning Farmers, Organic/Local Food
Concerns remain over long-term loss in conservation funding, failure to close farm safety net loopholes
After two months of negotiations, the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee leaders yesterday released a final bill that makes long-overdue investments in the future of American agriculture. If passed and signed into law by President Trump, the bill will better connect beginning and socially disadvantaged producers with the tools and resources they need to start and sustain vibrant food and farm businesses. It would also help both established and beginning farmers to tap growing markets by providing permanent, mandatory funding for local and regional food production and organic research.
“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.”
The bill provides permanent, baseline funding and also makes significant policy improvements to the following tiny but mighty farm bill programs: the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as “Section 2501”), Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program, and Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP). The final farm bill combines BFRDP and Section 2501 into the new Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) program, and merges VAPG and FMLFPP into the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP).
NSAC actively endorsed both FOTO and LAMP, and has for years advocated that Congress shore up these programs by providing permanent baseline funding so that legislative delays don’t result in funding or support gaps for America’s family farmers and farm organizations.
“The deal reached today addresses a growing need across this country to scale up our nation’s farm-to-fork initiatives, invest in healthy food, support the next generation of farmers and other underserved producers, and continue making strides in organic agriculture research,” said Obudzinski. “We thank the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees for providing much needed stability and reliability through these permanent investments.”
The final bill also rejects the House’s efforts to eliminate the Conservation Stewardship Program(CSP) and preserves current funding across the conservation title. The conference report also makes important policy improvements to encourage cover cropping, resource-conserving crop rotation, and advanced grazing systems.
“We are glad to see that the conference report retains CSP’s structure as a unique and independent program, and believe these reforms send a strong message to USDA to focus funding on the most impactful conservation activities to address our most pressing environmental challenges,” said Obudzinski. “We also applaud conferees for boosting conservation easement funding and for ensuring that the Conservation Reserve Program includes the new Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers (CLEAR) initiative to support conservation buffers to benefit water quality.”
Despite these historic victories and investments, the final bill contains serious shortcomings. Overall, the bill fails to address some of most significant challenges facing American agriculture and rural communities – food and farm business consolidation, dwindling rural populations and resources, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. In some cases, the bill not only fails to move the needle forward, it actively takes steps backward by failing to restore funding cuts to conservation programs or close widening loopholes in our commodity subsidy and crop insurance programs.
Over the next ten years, the 2018 Farm Bill will cut billions in funding for performance-based conservation through CSP. By failing to restore the $6 billion cut to conservation funds made in the 2014 Farm Bill, the only way to provide for other necessary increases within the Conservation Title – given limited available funds – was to cut funding from working lands conservation. That cut may start out small, but for the next farm bill in 2023, it amounts to a $5 billion reduction in budget authority.
“The final bill will ultimately shortchange working lands conservation by stripping billions in conservation support to farmers through programs like CSP,” said Obudzinski. “We are disheartened to see that this farm bill further reduces CSP funding at a time when farmers are increasingly struggling to deal with extreme weather and other climate change-related challenges.”
NSAC is also deeply disappointed over the bill’s inaction on crop insurance and commodity subsidy reform and failure to address issues like low farm income or farm consolidation. Instead of making much-needed reforms to the nation’s farm safety net programs, the final 2018 Farm Bill expands existing loopholes – the result of which will be million dollar per year subsidies for the wealthiest mega-farms and payments for nieces, nephews, and cousins who may never have even seen a farm let alone actively work on one.
“It is a sad day when bipartisan reforms are ripped out of the final farm bill and replaced by giveaways for the one percent,” said Obudzinski. “Given that the Senate-passed farm bill contained broadly supported farm safety net reforms, it is beyond disappointing to see the hyper-partisan language and subsidy handouts of the House-passed bill win the day. We thank Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) for leading this effort in the Senate and are committed to continuing to pursue these reforms going forward.”
With the farm bill finish line finally in sight, NSAC will now be assessing next steps with our over 120 member organizations. We look forward to continuing our work to advance sustainable farm and food policy throughout the rest of the farm bill process.
–National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Soy Growers Pleased With Stability & Support New Farm Bill Will Provide
Soybean industry congratulates House & Senate ag committees & encourages quick passage
ASA today congratulated the House and Senate Agriculture Committees and Congressional leadership on release of a conference report that reflects a broad consensus of support for the “Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.” ASA strongly supports this legislation and urges the House and Senate to approve it this week so it can be enacted before Congress adjourns for the year.
“Enactment of a new farm bill on schedule has been a top ASA priority for the last two years,” stated ASA President Davie Stephens, a soybean farmer from Clinton, Ky. “This legislation will provide the risk management tools farmers need to navigate difficult economic conditions over the next five years. It provides full funding for the Foreign Market Development program and the Market Access Program – key partnerships under which ASA and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service work to expand developing and emerging country markets.” Stephens continued, “We commend Chairmen Conaway and Roberts and Ranking Members Peterson and Stabenow for finding compromises on several contentious issues, and urge President Trump to give his endorsement so this much-needed legislation can be delivered to farmers, ranchers and all rural Americans.”
Stephens’ remarks followed release of the joint House-Senate conference report that will extend authorization and funding for a broad spectrum of programs affecting producers and consumers of food, feed, fiber and fuel, not only in the United States, but also overseas programs that aid U.S. producers. Spread across 13 titles, the farm bill provides assurances to all Americans that the federal government will continue to provide assistance, when needed, through farm income support programs, nutrition and feeding programs, and through conservation, rural development, agricultural research, energy, and international agricultural development and food aid programs. Provisions in the bill important to soybean farmers include the following:
- Allowing producers to sign up for the county option under the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program or the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program for 2019-2020 crops, and annually for 2021, 2022, and 2023 on a farm-by-farm and crop-by-crop basis.
- Allows farmers to update their program yields, increasing the support they’re eligible to receive.
- Increasing the Marketing Assistance loan rate for soybeans by 24 percent, to $6.20/bu. from $5.00/bu.
- Establishes the Agricultural Trade and Facilitation Program, which will provide $255 million per year to fund FMD, MAP, emerging markets, and TASC. FMD is funded each year at not less than $34.5 million, and MAP is funded each year at not less than $200 million. A Priority Trust Fund will provide $3.5 million per year to programs for which requests are greater than the funds available. The Bill also allows FMD funds to be used in Cuba.
- Reduces mandatory funding of the Energy Title significantly, but continues baseline funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The Biobased Market Program will be funded at $3 million per year for 5 years – the only Energy Title program to get increased funding.
- Increases the overall acreage limit for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to 27 million from 24 million acres by FY 2023, including 8.6 million acres to be devoted to continuous practices and two million for grasslands. Limits Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) funding, and encourages States to give higher consideration to contracts that improve soil health.
- Maintains authorization for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) at $700 million per year and directs USDA to utilize the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) “Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030” consensus report, which identifies priority research areas for developing a more efficient, resilient, sustainable, and competitive U.S. agricultural system. ASA helped fund this study.
- Crop insurance provisions allow producers to establish a single-enterprise unit across county lines. The language also includes cover crops as a good farming practice under crop insurance and ensures that the planting of a cover crop does not impact the insurability of a subsequent crop.
“ASA applauds the improvements in Title I support programs, including giving producers the option to choose between the county ARC and PLC programs in four of the five years of the new bill. This will allow farmers to respond to increased volatility in overseas markets and prices in coming years,” Stephens said. The ASA president added that, “The increase in the soybean loan rate will benefit farmers who need to access low-interest financing for their 2019 and future crops.”
ASA is hopeful the bill will be passed expeditiously before the lame duck 115th Congress adjourns, starting with House Rules Committee consideration on Tuesday afternoon.
–American Soybean Association
Historic Permanent Funding for Organic Research Secured in Farm Bill
Thanks to the hard work of OFRF and a broad coalition of organic champions, we have secured historic wins for organic agricultural research in the 2018 Farm Bill, which will provide $395 million for organic agriculture research and education over the next 10 years. This milestone is the biggest win for organic farming in the Farm Bill in decades, securing permanent funding for organic research at USDA.
These funds will dramatically expand competitive grants through USDA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), ensuring organic farmers and ranchers have the tools and technology to meet their unique challenges and the growing demand for organic products—leading to a more resilient and sustainable agricultural system that values healthy environments and healthy people.
“Throughout our history, OFRF has worked to ensure that organic producers have the science-based information and resources necessary to support the nation’s demand for healthier food and farming systems,” noted OFRF Executive Director Brise Tencer. “Since 2002, OREI research has supported cutting edge scientific inquiry into organic practices and production systems. With this bill, Congress has made progress toward fulfilling organic agriculture’s potential to provide broad environmental and economic benefits for all.”
As the Farm Bill heads to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for final consideration, we support the landmark wins for organic agriculture, including the significant funding increase for OREI and increased enforcement authority of the National Organic Program (NOP). In addition to these milestones, the Farm Bill includes several other programs that impact organic farmers and ranchers such as the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) and funding for the Organic Data Initiative (ODI).
Details on the Organic Provisions in the Farm Bill
▪ $395 million in OREI funding over the next 10 years. $20 million/FY 2019-2020, $25 million/FY 2021, $30 million/FY 2022, $50 million/FY 2023 and ever year after.
▪ $5 million for the Organic Production and Market Data Initiative, which helps facilitate the collection of organic production and market data.
▪ $40.5 million for NOCCSP that offsets part of farmers’ organic certification costs. This program is facilitated by $24 million in new funding, plus an additional $16.5 million in funding that was not used for the program from the previous Farm Bill.
▪ $5 million for technology upgrades, increased enforcement authority, and increased funding authorization for the NOP.
▪ Payment limits for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative are increased to $140,000.
▪ Organic and sustainable agriculture practice are now part of the continuing education for Crop Insurance Agents and Loss Adjusters.
▪ Funding from the Conservation Stewardship Program will be allocated to States to support organic production and transition to organic production.
▪ Current voting and membership practices of the National Organic Standards Board are codified.
▪ Farmers that have land in the Conservation Reserve Program can being to transition the land to certified organic 3 years prior to the expiration of their Conservation Reserve contract.
▪ State Agriculture Mediation Programs shall now cover issues that impact certified organic production.
▪ The Market Access Program shall encourage export of USDA certified organic products.
“All of the organic policy components of the Farm Bill are important and have far reaching impacts,” said Michael Stein, Policy and Program Manager at OFRF. “We want to thank the Agriculture Committee leadership, our supporters in Congress, and the diverse coalition that has helped make outstanding progress for organic agriculture in this Farm Bill.”
Organic agriculture would not be where it is today without the strong support of Congress. We would like the thank the House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders for their hard work, including Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Representatives Mike Conaway (R-TX), and Collin Peterson (D-MN) and the diligent staff of the Agriculture Committees, without whom we would not have been able to achieve such a historic win for organic agriculture.
We would also like to thank Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), and Representatives Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) who championed Congressional support for organic research. Thanks to their help and support, we were able to gather strong bipartisan support for organic research, securing 66 co-sponsors of the Organic Agriculture Research Act.
Other champions for organic agriculture in the Farm Bill process included Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and the Senate’s only certified organic farmer, Senator John Tester (D-MT). Representatives Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), and Darren Soto (D-FL), along with outgoing Representatives John Faso (R-NY) and Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM) also supported key organic policies in the farm bill.
Key Role of Organics
Since its inception, OFRF has worked to cultivate organic research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and organic acreage into organic production. In 2002, OFRF was instrumental in securing the first dedicated USDA funding for organic agriculture, $3 million annually. In the 2008 Farm Bill, OFRF worked to secure $78 million for organic research, a historic five-fold increase from the $15 million allocated in the expiring 2002 legislation. Now in the 2018 Farm Bill, we can proudly say that USDA’s funding for organic agriculture research has become permanent, steadily increasing to $50 million annually by 2023.
However, passing the 2018 Farm Bill is only the first step. OFRF will be working to inform this increased investment by ensuring future research and programs are relevant and responsive to the top challenges facing organic farmers and ranchers and producers who want to farm more sustainably, and that education and resources are broadly disseminated.
“It is so exciting to see this increased level of support for organic farming and organic research in the Farm Bill, said OFRF Board President and organic farmer, Jeremy Barker-Plotkin. “Organic farming is good for farmers, consumers, and the environment, and can ameliorate the impacts of climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil. Funding for research into organic farming has lagged behind organic farming’s market share for years, so it’s great to see a movement towards funding parity.”
Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) is a non-profit foundation that works to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems. OFRF cultivates organic research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and acreage into organic production.
–Organic Farming Research Foundation
ARA Statement on the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Report
Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) President and CEO Daren Coppock released the following statement on the conference report on the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill):
“ARA is happy to see a Farm Bill move forward, however this bill represents a missed opportunity to correct some straightforward regulatory problems that would have had no budgetary impact.
“We are disappointed to see language to fix the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulatory overlap once again dropped from the conference report. The association strongly supported language to fix the long-standing duplicative permitting requirement for pesticide applications that are already regulated under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and state laws. This unnecessary requirement, the result of a court case, adds cost, potential liability and compliance burdens without creating any benefit for the environment, worker safety or farmers. The fix for NPDES was publicly supported by all four of the primary negotiators of the report, was in the House bill, was on the table in the last Farm Bill, has previously passed the Senate Agriculture Committee, and yet was still not included in the report.
“A proposed statutory definition of what constitutes a ‘retailer’ was included in the House bill but dropped in conference. This provision was necessary to prevent arbitrary re-definitions of ‘retailer’ by regulatory agencies, which was the mechanism the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) attempted to use to impose Process Safety Management (PSM) on anhydrous ammonia fertilizer retailers. OSHA’s stated justification for trying to impose PSM was the 2013 tragedy in West, Texas, where anhydrous ammonia was present but played no role whatsoever in the explosion even by OSHA’s own admission. OSHA has ample authority under existing regulations to inspect facilities that store ammonia or ammonium nitrate without imposing PSM; assertions to the contrary are false. Rather than accept our offer to work together on targeted regulatory fixes for the actual causes of the incident, OSHA declined and instead opted to pursue PSM on a product that was not at fault at West.
“Clarifications to streamline Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultations on pesticide registrations were watered down in the final conference report. Section 7 of the ESA requires consultations with the National Marine Fisheries Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service on actions that might impact endangered species, but consultations on every single product or active ingredient are cumbersome when classes of ingredients could be analyzed instead. These consultations are also litigation magnets for anti-pesticide activist groups. The House bill included some common-sense reforms to this process that would have streamlined its operation, improved its predictability and timeliness, all without sacrificing environmental protections. This language is diluted in the report to the point it is unlikely to be helpful.
“A provision to repeal the onerous 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule from the House bill is missing in the conference report. The 2015 WOTUS rule would have placed most of the land area in the country under federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction – a textbook case of regulatory overreach and outside the scope of the Clean Water Act. Thankfully the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working on a replacement rule to be released today which will hopefully result in a rational and effective WOTUS rule.”
“The conference report also fails to include the reauthorization of the Pesticide Registration and Improvement Act (PRIA). Language from the House bill on FIFRA including a definition of ‘state lead agency’ which would have strengthened pesticide preemption across the country. This legislation omits key provisions for agricultural retailers, which is a disappointment.
“We know that farmers and their bankers need certainty; many of our members offer trade credit to farm customers, and they need that certainty too. We appreciate language in the Conservation Title related to Third Party Service providers, as well as provisions to support rural broadband to empower rural communities and enable precision agriculture functionality.
“This legislation represented a significant opportunity to correct some serious regulatory issues, and those solutions did not make the final bill despite significant bipartisan support. ARA will not oppose this bill but we had hoped for much more.”
The full text of the conference report can be viewed here.
–Agricultural Retailers Association
Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance Applauds Farm Bill Conference Committee Agreement
Programs Supporting Specialty Crop Industry Included in Report
The(SCFBA), representing over 120 specialty crop organizations across the United States, released the following statement after the Farm Bill Conference Committee submitted its conference report during the final Congressional session of 2018:
The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance applauds the efforts of Chairman Michael Conaway, Chairman Pat Roberts, Ranking Member Collin Peterson and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow along with the members of the Farm Bill Conference Committee in submitting a conference report for the Farm Bill.
Particularly, the Alliance is pleased to see the following included in the 2018 Farm Bill:
- Enhanced funding for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), allowing all specialty crops to compete for the full $80 million annually for the SCRI program
- An annual trust fund of $25 million annually to maintain resources for the citrus industry for combating citrus greening
- Full $9 million annual funding of the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program, which encourages reduction of bureaucratic impediments to make the program more efficient in overcoming trade barriers
- Continued support for programs that combat invasive pests and diseases at $75 million annually, with the goal of enhancing its funding in five years by $7.5 million to fund the National Clean Plant Network
- Increased Food Insecurity Nutrition Initiative (FINI) funding levels and continued support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Continued strong funding of Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG)
- Improved access to foreign markets through increased funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) of at least $200 million annually
- Strong language in SCRI, AFRI and the newly created AGARDA program focusing on mechanization as a priority
- Reforms to the National Organic Program (NOP) operation
The Alliance has worked diligently to ensure the Farm Bill enhances nutrition programs that promote specialty crop consumption, expands agricultural trade opportunities, fully funds pest and disease programs and strengthens research funding. It is vital for Congress to take a bipartisan approach and pass this critical legislation. The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance urges passage in both chambers before the end of the year.
“Specialty crop producers across the nation are united in providing consumers with healthy eating options by expanding the consumption of fruits and vegetables, bolstering research and pest management and supporting grower initiatives to improve competitiveness,” said John Keeling, executive president and CEO of the National Potato Council. “For this work to continue, the Farm Bill must be passed by the end of the year.”
“This report is great news for specialty crop agriculture, but it’s even better news for consumers,” said Mike Stuart, FFVA chief executive officer. “It ensures that Americans will continue to have access to a plentiful supply of nutritious fruits and vegetables. What’s more, this continued investment in specialty crop agriculture shows that Congress understands the vital role we play in the U.S. economy and in public health. Timely passage of this bill is critical. ”
“Support of specialty crops programs in the Farm Bill demonstrate that Congress acknowledges the value of these programs and their tremendous importance to the specialty crop industry. The Alliance is grateful for their inclusion in the bill and for Congress’s continued commitment to policies that enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of specialty crop agriculture,” saidTom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers Association.
–Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance
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