Sep 6, 2018Farm Bill Conference Committee starts public meetings
U.S. senators and representatives met for the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee’s first public meeting Wednesday, Sept. 5.
Members of the committee spoke about the necessity of completing the Farm Bill, which technically expires at the month’s end, and their confidence in the process to deliver the legislation on time.
“This is the eighth farm bill that I’ve been a part of during my time in public service,” said Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), who is chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. “The circumstances are always a bit different, but we all have a history of working together in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion to find solutions and to get farm bills done. If it was important then, it is even more so now.”
Ranking Senate committee member Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) highlighted difficulties that growers were facing:
“While we’re not in the 1930’s, times are tough for our agricultural economy. Commodity prices are low, trade disruptions are creating uncertainty, and many farmers are struggling,” she said. “When I am home in Michigan, where agriculture supports one in four jobs, I hear from our farmers and agricultural businesses that now more than ever —they need the certainty of a five-year Farm Bill.”
House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) said the committee was on track to complete the legislation before the 2014 Farm Bill expires at the end of the month.
“Today my colleagues in the House and Senate highlighted the urgency in farm and ranch country and just how desperate times are as net farm income is slated to fall again this year,” Conway said in a released statement. “While I’m pleased with progress on the farm bill – we must pick up the pace. This will all come together quickly if all four principals are willing to make meaningful compromises. I have made it very clear that I am willing to do so. We still have a lot of work to do, but I believe we can get this done on time.”
In his opening statement, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) emphasized the need for progress and unity.
“More than any one issue, I want a farm bill. I’m here to work and to get a conference report we can all sign, pass through our respective chambers and send to the president to be signed into law,” he said. “I’ll remind our conferees that should be their goal as well. Nobody in this room is going to get everything he or she wants; this process is about compromise.
The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, representing over 120 specialty crop organizations across the United States, sent a letter to Farm Bill conferees outlining its views on key programs that are contained in the House and Senate versions of the 2018 Farm Bill.
As the bill now goes to conference, the alliance supports the following priorities contained in each of the bills:
- Expanding trade opportunities under Title III that help increase market access including the Market Access Program and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops.
- Strong research programs under Title VII that enhance focused research on specialty crop priorities including full funding of the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, the Emergency Citrus Disease Research & Development Trust Fund, prioritizing automation and mechanization research, the Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority (AGARDA) that focuses on high-risk agriculture and food challenges, and the Urban and Indoor Agriculture Research Program that helps support research of these and other emerging agriculture production.
- Focusing programs that help expand fruit, vegetable and tree nut consumption through federal nutrition programs such as Section 32 purchases, DOD Fresh, Food Insecurity and Nutrition Incentives Program (FINI), Harvest Health Pilot Program, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
- Full funding of pest and disease programs under APHIS and market expansion programs contained through Specialty Crop Block Grants.
Above: U.S. Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) participate in the Farm Bill Conference Committee Sept. 5, 2018. Photo: @HouseAgNews.