WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, members of the Congressional Western Caucus released statements reacting to the passage of the Farm Bill in the House of Representatives:
House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05): "Right now, our farmers need certainty. They need to know that the farm safety net is intact. That’s what this legislation does. The final 2018 Farm Bill includes my top three priorities: protecting crop insurance, supporting trade and market access programs, and increasing our commitment to agriculture research, like the great work being done at Washington State University. Our farmers are the greatest anti-poverty program and have done more to provide food security to the world than any government program. I was proud to support this legislation which supports them."
Chief Rules Officer Dan Newhouse (WA-04): "Farm Country has waited long enough, and today Congress delivered. As a third-generation Yakima Valley farmer, I know the Farm Bill plays an enormously important role in Central Washington’s agriculture economy by delivering a secure safety net for farmers and providing for research that keeps us on the cutting edge of global innovation. Farmers are struggling with a 50-percent drop in net farm income over the past five years, which is why market access programs and crop insurance are critical to providing certainty for agriculture producers. While some improvements were made, I would have preferred to include stronger provisions to improve nutrition programs and forestry management. Farmers needed action sooner rather than later. I applaud Chairman Conaway for his hard work in getting this bill across the finish line."
Rep. Ralph Abraham (LA-05): "Agriculture is a critical part of the Louisiana economy, and our state’s farmers, ranchers and foresters deserve the stability and strong safety net that the Farm Bill provides. This bill preserves crop insurance, adjusts for low commodity prices, strengthens dairy price protections, and preserves the family farm. This is a good bill, and that’s why farmers across the country are celebrating its passage."
Rep. Don Bacon (NE-02): "One out of every four jobs in Nebraska is related to agriculture and the 2018 Farm Bill provides certainty not only to our farmers, ranchers and producers, but to so many other related industries in Nebraska. When our producers thrive, the processing, financial services and transportation industries on our state thrive meaning that more and more families in Nebraska are impacted by a successful farm bill."
Rep. Steve King (IA-04): "Iowa’s farmers want a Farm Bill that provides predictability, while also enhancing our ability to trade in foreign markets, and this bill accomplishes both of these goals. I am pleased that the final bill contains important provisions that I requested, including the ‘Genome to Phenome’ language that was a priority for Iowa State, vaccine bank language promoting the development and storage of GMO vaccines in the United States to deal with sudden outbreaks, and full funding for the Market Access Program which promotes foreign trade of our agricultural goods. This Farm Bill is a victory for our producers, it meets Rural America’s immediate need for greater trade, and it’s shameful that partisan politics prevented it from passing sooner."
Rep. Roger Marshall (KS-01): "Kansas farm bankruptcies are up six times since 2015. I’ve traveled thousands of miles in the past two years, touching base with farmers and agribusinesses across the state, and I am proud to report that the final bill strengthens our safety net, prioritizes trade promotion, fully protects crop insurance, improves the dairy program, invests in broadband and rural health, and so much more."
Rep. Ron Estes (KS-04): "This five-year Farm Bill provides much-needed certainty for Kansas farmers and ranchers through increased crop insurance programs and provides historic funding for rural broadband that will help farmers utilize new technology and get products to market faster. While the final bill didn’t include all of the work requirement initiatives from the House-passed version, I’m glad the bill makes needed improvements to the SNAP program, including giving the Secretary of Agriculture flexibility to address work requirement waivers issued by states. As a strong advocate for work requirements like those that have worked in Kansas, I’ll continue working with the Trump administration to help families in need while getting people back to work."
Rep. Rick Crawford (AR-01): "For too long, rural America has been left behind as the rest of the nation moves forward. The Farm Bill is important for those engaged in production agriculture but also includes key provisions that address issues facing our rural communities such as the opioid crisis, food deserts, and broadband access. This legislation is a resounding commitment from this Congress to rural constituencies that we recognize their needs and delivers on our promises to farmers and ranchers across America. The Farm Bill ensures our farmers and ranchers can continue to produce a reliable food and fiber supply, even amid uncertain economic times. As a Farm Bill conferee, I am proud Congress delivered much needed support to our nations farmers and ranchers alongside regulatory improvements to farm programs."
On Wednesday, December 12, 2018, the House passed the Conference Report to accompany H.R. 2, the “Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018,” a bill introduced by Representative Mike Conaway (TX-11).
A short Committee-drafted highlights page is here. Longer Committee summary here. Messaging & talking points here. Text vis the Conference Report can be found here.
The core of the package is the commodities title, Title I. Regardless of a Member’s ideological stance on subsidy, price guarantee and similar government interventions into a market, the fact remains that these programs, by longstanding Congressional direction, have become an entrenched part of the domestic agricultural market, without which the U.S. agricultural industry would suffer amazing losses. The resulting market voids would be filled by foreign competitors, providing them advantage while diminishing food quality and safety just as our nation’s farmers go out of business.
Similarly, program lapses and overall uncertainty have extremely detrimental effects on this industry, which is under additional pressures due to ongoing trade disputes.
Net farm income for 2018 is already projected to be at the lowest level since 2002, and a 50% drop has taken place over the last five years. This is the largest such drop since the Great Depression, per the House Committee on Agriculture.
On account of the relationship between the provisions of Title I and the U.S. agricultural industry, the prudent and responsible action for stability in U.S. food markets and the livelihoods of those in the agricultural industry can only be passage of the Farm Bill.
Title II, the conservation title, could be the strongest conservation title of any Farm Bill for Western Members. Increased funding proposals for the Environmental Quality Inceptives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), and the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) are contained in the Conference Report – all welcome fiscal adjustments to useful environmental and soil conservation programs. The Conservation Stewardship Program is restructured to provide better incentives for farmers to address local resource concerns; funding for the program is reduced from $1.8 billion/year to no greater than $1 billion, with the difference being rerouted to the EQIP, ACEP and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
The Conference Report provides $500 million for important conservation infrastructure initiatives that include flood prevention and watershed rehabilitation.
Title II also establishes the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program, in order to address the $1.5 billion in damages associated with these invasive species. The Title provides important revenues for the Voluntary Public Access Program and reauthorizes the Conservation of Private Grazing Land Program.
On balance, the Title provides a smarter allocation of scarce and useful conservation & environmental control resources while improving incentives for such resources to be effectively used as intended.
There is also policy progress along the lines of rural broadband, the opiate crisis, rural development and mental health care access in Title VI. Secretarial authority to make grants for rural broadband is expanded and standards thereof are improved for rural America. As pertains to rural health, the Conference Report increases resources for treatment quality and access and addresses record farmer suicide rates by reestablishing the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network.
Title VII provides important revenues for universities and research. The Conference Report provides new resources to strengthen the land‐grant university system.
Title VIII contains forestry provisions which enhance prevention and treatment of catastrophic wildfire. Insect and disease categorical exclusions to standard environmental review are renewed and expanded to expedite the removal of hazardous fuels from forests. Another categorical exclusion is added for federal land plots up to 4,500 acres for purposes of promoting Greater Sage Grouse and Mule Deer habitat. Good Neighbor Authority, whereby the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) may enter into cooperative forest management agreements with other entities, is expanded to authorize the USFS to enter into such agreements with counties and Indian Tribes. This adds several important, new tools to the USFS toolkit, improving their flexibility in addressing specific forest management problems.
Finally, the Title authorizes USFS to establish a privately-funded pilot program for utility infrastructure rights-of-way vegetation management, in which limited vegetation management near electricity infrastructure outside of a right of way can be employed in order to stave off wildfires started by contact between trees or vegetation and power lines.
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