The Farm Bill is finally headed to President Donald Trump’s desk after the House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the $867 billion spending package on a 369-47 vote, according to numerous media reports. This comes one day after the Senate approved the same legislation on a vote of 87-13.
About 80% of the farm bill total goes into Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) programs and benefits. The legislation also expands farm subsidies and legalizes hemp production, among other things, according to The Hill.
News of the bill’s passage was immediately met with praise from numerous industry groups. “Farm policies have a major impact on the health of the agriculture economy, which is a key driver of equipment manufacturing employment. We applaud Congress on its bipartisan effort to pass this much-needed legislation and look forward to President Trump signing the 2018 Farm Bill into law,” said John Lagemann, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Deere & Co. and chairman of the Assn. of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM).
Dennis Slater, president of AEM, said, “the U.S. agriculture economy is the backbone of rural America, which underscores why passing pro-agriculture and pro-manufacturing policies are so important. By signing the farm bill, President Trump will help preserve and expand programs important to the health of the farm economy and strengthen the U.S. agriculture equipment industry.”
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue hailed its passage as “good news” for farmers and ranchers who need the certainty that this legislation affords. “This Farm Bill will help producers make decisions about the future, while also investing in important agricultural research and supporting trade programs to bolster exports.”
“The bipartisan bill includes important commodity price protections that will provide producers and community banks with greater business-planning certainty over the next 5 years. This is essential during an era of low commodity prices, sharply lower net farm income and foreign trade uncertainties,” said Rebeca Romero Rainey, president and CEO of Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA). “The farm bill also maintains a strong crop insurance program, increases USDA guaranteed farm loan limits to $1.75 million, and provides for the possible increase in guaranteed USDA rural development loans — all of which are ICBA and community bank priorities.”
Continued support of the crop insurance program was a top priority for the National Corn Growers Assn. (NCGA). Said Lynn Chrisp, president of the association: “NCGA is most pleased to see the bill maintains support for a robust crop insurance program, our organization’s top priority, and strengthens the ARC-CO program through administrative improvements including a one-time program change option, an increase to the plug yield for disaster years, the use of a trend-adjusted yield factor and a market adjustment provision for the floor price.
“The bill also provides increased funding for trade promotion programs that are especially important to agriculture at this time.”
The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA), a national coalition consisting of more than 120 groups that represent growers of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and other products, pointed to a number of things the farm bill also accomplishes. A few of the provisions the alliance pointed out are:
- 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
- Strong language in SCRI and other programs that focus on mechanization as a priority
- Full $9 million annual funding of the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program, which the groups says encourages reduction of bureaucratic impediments to make the program more efficient in overcoming trade barriers
“[This bill] invests in programs to ensure schoolchildren are eating nutritious produce. It also will help specialty crop agriculture fight plant pests and diseases such as citrus greening. And it bolsters programs that helps us expand markets for our crops,” Mike Stuart, CEO of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Assn., said in a statement from SCFBA.
Congress has approved the farm bill after months of negotiations. The current farm bill lapsed on Sept. 30 after lawmakers struggled to reach consensus over changes to SNAP.