Aug 29, 2018
Farm Bill Conference set to begin Sept. 5

A formal meeting between the House and Senate on Sept. 5 is set to kick off the Farm Bill Conference.

This meeting will officially begin member-level negotiations, following staff discussions that have taken place throughout July and August. The National Potato Council (NPC) said its staff and the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA) have been meeting regularly with both Senate and House offices with the intention of ensuring that valuable programs contained in either bill ultimately survive and are included in the final conference agreement.

As an example, NPC joined 46 other agricultural organizations in signing a letter to the leadership of the Farm Bill conference supporting full funding of the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program.

“As you work to resolve differences between the two versions of H.R. 2, we respectfully request that the Senate’s language on TASC prevail in any final conference report,” the letter read. “The Senate’s provision on TASC seeks to maintain full funding for the program and encourage the Department of Agriculture to eliminate bureaucratic impediments to these vital trade resources.”

TASC is a vital program for resolving specialty crop trade issues, the NPC said. The potato industry has utilized it in key markets around the world and currently it is the foundation of work the NPC is doing to open the Mexican market to fresh potatoes from the U.S.

“The Senate is intent on keeping full funding for TASC and ensuring the program runs efficiently. We’re strongly urging all sides to take this common-sense approach,” said Kam Quarles, NPC vice president of public policy.

However, there are some provisions important to the potato industry where support may be wavering. A group of senators who initially supported the Senate version of the Farm Bill released a letter to all conferees opposing the inclusion of regulatory reform provisions in the final conference agreement.

Among the regulatory reform provisions that the House included in their Farm Bill are:

  • Elimination of the NPDES permitting requirement for activities lawfully occurring under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
  • Reauthorization of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act, which sets the cost-share mechanism for registering and reviewing pesticides.
  • Reform of the Endangered Species Act process to give primary authority to the Environmental Protection Agency in the interagency process involving the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Service.

Those regulatory reform provisions are supported by the SCFBA in its list of priorities for the next Farm Bill.


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