House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway, Dist. 11, – Texas, introduced on April 12 the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2) – critical legislation to address the economic challenges facing the nation’s farmers and ranchers, while making historic investments in opportunities for SNAP recipients.
“Rural America is hurting. Over the last five years, net farm income has been cut in half. Natural disasters and global markets distorted by predatory trade practices of foreign countries, including high and rising foreign subsidies, tariffs and non-tariff barriers, have resulted in huge production losses and chronically depressed prices that are today jeopardizing the future of America’s farm and ranch families,” Conaway said.
“The farm bill keeps faith with our nation’s farmers and ranchers through the current agriculture recession by providing certainty and helping producers manage the enormous risks that are inherent in agriculture. The farm bill also remains faithful to the American taxpayer and consumer. Under the farm bill, consumers will continue to enjoy the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world, and taxpayers will reap the more than $112 billion in budget savings projected under the current law.
“Ensuring an affordable food supply is important to every citizen, but it is absolutely critical to the most vulnerable among us who struggle every week to put food on the table. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is reauthorized under the farm bill, is essential to helping many Americans feed themselves and their families.
“The farm bill also keeps faith with these families by not only maintaining SNAP benefits but by offering SNAP beneficiaries a springboard out of poverty to a good paying job, and opportunity for a better way of life for themselves and their families.
“I’m excited to share our vision with the American people – and eager for people to see the details of a proposal that offers people real hope and promise.
“I’m also looking forward to quickly moving this farm bill through the House and working with the Senate to deliver a farm bill to the president’s desk that is on time, as the president has asked us to do.”
CLICK HERE to read the full legislative text of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018.
CLICK HERE to read the section-by-section summary of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018.
CLICK HERE to read policy highlights in the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018. (seen below)
For more information on the bill, visit agriculture.house.gov/farmbill.
The Agriculture & Nutrition Act of 2018 works to address the 5-year, 52 percent decline in the farm economy by providing certainty that an extension of current policy cannot provide. The bill reauthorizes and strengthens the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) options through 2023. Producers are given an opportunity to make a new election between ARC and PLC with several improvements, including allowing a new yield update opportunity for producers who were facing severe drought during the previous yield update, allowing reference prices to adjust to improved market conditions, and prioritizing the use of RMA data for administering ARC to minimize disparities between counties.
More than 35 improvements are made to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation’s flagship nutrition program. Most notably, existing work requirements are strengthened, streamlined and paired with a variety of options to increase opportunities for SNAP recipients, including participating in a fully-funded, guaranteed Employment & Training (E&T) slot. Individuals may choose not to participate, but they will no longer be eligible for SNAP. The farm bill maintains vital nutrition assistance for those in need while making a historic commitment to helping recipients improve their outlook on life.
Given escalating use of illegal trade actions by foreign countries, the farm bill stands by our nation’s farmers and ranchers, providing a strengthened safety net and authorizing and restoring funding for vital tools for trade promotion and market development. The farm bill also maintains long-standing legal authority for the secretary to provide assistance to farmers and ranchers affected by unfair foreign trading practices.
The farm bill prioritizes working-lands conservation by retaining and folding the best features of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) into the nation’s flagship incentive-based program for voluntary conservation — the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). This supports and enables a significant investment in emerging conservation practices like the use of cover crops.
At the request of virtually every farmer, rural banker and rural business in the country, the farm bill protects crop insurance. Some improvements are made but, overall, the farm bill doesn’t fix what isn’t broken.
One of the most consistent complaints policymakers hear from farmers and ranchers is about burdensome regulations. The farm bill streamlines and reduces regulatory burdens. For example, the bill includes commonsense reforms to the onerous and conflicting Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation process regarding pesticide registration activities to ensure agricultural producers have access to the safest and most efficient modern crop protection tools. And, the bill cuts red-tape across the conservation programs, eliminating unnecessary and burdensome Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) and System for Award Management (SAM) registration requirements for producers.
Rural areas of the U.S. should have the same access to broadband and infrastructure that urban areas do. The bill authorizes substantial annual appropriations for rural broadband and requires USDA to establish forward-looking broadband standards. The farm bill also strengthens the suite of rural development initiatives to promote jobs and economic activity in rural America where employment is suffering due to the sharp downturn in the farm economy. Finally, the farm bill provides the secretary the authority to prioritize projects that help communities meet the challenges of the opioid crisis.
The Agriculture & Nutrition Act of 2018 establishes a new National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program, designed to protect the health of the nation’s livestock sector. The program is modeled on the highly successful Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program that has strengthened USDA’s ability to protect U.S. agriculture and natural resources from foreign plant pest threats. The bill also establishes a new U.S.- only vaccine bank with priority for stockpiling Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine and provides for the enhancement of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.
SPECIALTY & ORGANIC CROPS
Specialty crops play an important role in the success of U.S. agriculture and are an essential component of our national food policy. The farm bill restores funding for Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) under the new International Market Development Program. It also seeks to expand and improve crop insurance policies for specialty crops. The bill reauthorizes several programs that support marketing and promotion of these crops. It also makes key improvements to the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) and the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, while maintaining funding. Finally, the bill increases funding for the Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative (OREI) and provides resources for combatting fraudulent imports of organic products coming into the U.S.
BEGINNING FARMERS & RANCHERS
The bill maintains several provisions to help beginning farmers and ranchers establish themselves in agriculture. The bill enhances access to crop insurance and establishes a scholarship program at 1890 Land Grant Institutions designed to assist students interested in careers in agriculture. Many of the challenges faced by beginning farmers and ranchers are intrinsically linked to those retiring producers. The 2018 Farm Bill establishes the “Commission
on Farm Transitions – Needs for 2050” to examine additional policy changes needed to ensure that the U.S. maintains the safest, most abundant and most affordable food and fiber supply in the world.