Dec 11, 2018Farm bill near passage, still contains produce priorities
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, or H.R. 2, is on its way to passing this week, after theHouse and the Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee on Dec. 11 approved a Farm Bill conference report.
The House and Senate are expected to take up the Farm Bill this week and then send it to the President for his signature. The legislation will direct policy and funding resources for key agriculture programs in the Federal Government for the next five years.
The United Fresh Produce Association wrote in a news release that the step means a lot for the fresh produce industry, including the continued investment in key policy areas related to trade enhancement, access to healthy fresh fruits and vegetables, pest and disease prevention, targeted research, and block grant funding which targets important state and local priorities for fruits and vegetable industry throughout the country.
United Fresh is the secretariat of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, which has pushed for legislation and certain priorities since the reauthorization of the Farm Bill.
Robert Guenther, Senior Vice President of Public Policy at United Fresh, said the Farm Bill conference report includes the priorities of United Fresh members.
“We are proud to be part of the leadership team of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance which has focused its efforts over the last three Farm Bills to ensure that our critical segment of agriculture is a vital partner in developing farm and agriculture legislation for the United States,” he said. “The fresh produce industry has much at stake in this legislation and we are grateful for the recognition of the role our industry plays in providing nutritious foods for Americans and those around the world. We look forward to continuing to work in a bipartisan manner to ensure Congressional passage of this legislation so that it reaches the President’s desk before the conclusion of the 115th Congress.”
Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) Executive Director Brise Tencer said that organic growers also have much to gain from the farm bill.
“With this bill, Congress has made progress toward fulfilling organic agriculture’s potential to provide broad environmental and economic benefits for all,” he said.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said he welcomed the report.
“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,” he said in a released statement. “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.”
California Farm Bureau urges House passage of farm bill
At a time of declining commodity prices, trade disputes and regulatory uncertainty, the California Farm Bureau Federation endorsed the federal farm bill adopted today by the U.S. Senate, and urged quick passage by the House of Representatives.
“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.
“Farm exports support jobs in rural California, of course, but also in marketing and transportation companies located in our big cities,” Johansson said. “Programs that help California food and farm products reach more customers will boost jobs at ports and warehouses as well as at farms and packinghouses.”
He said Farm Bureau also welcomes farm bill programs to protect animal agriculture from catastrophic diseases, to allow dairy farmers to enroll in risk-management programs and to increase crop-insurance flexibility.
“The farm bill also invests in agricultural research, including studies of ways to mechanize more on-farm tasks,” Johansson said. “Farmers and ranchers face chronic problems in hiring enough qualified people, so this sort of technological research will be closely watched.”
But Johansson said CFBF was disappointed the final bill did not do more to improve wildfire prevention and forest management.
“Given the terrible impact of wildfires in California and elsewhere in the West, we need to manage our forests and wildlands better, and we will be advocating for that in the next Congress,” he said.
The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 36,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of nearly 5.6 million Farm Bureau members.