ALBANY, GA – Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02), Ranking Member of the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, sent a letter to House and Senate leaders on the conference committee for the 2018 Farm Bill urging them to come to an agreement on the Farm Bill that provides certainty and relief to farmers, rural communities, and those who rely on our nation’s food and nutrition programs.

This letter follows last week’s vote by the U.S. Senate to proceed to conference on the 2018 Farm Bill. A similar vote occurred in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 18. This wide-sweeping legislation seeks to reauthorize major agricultural and nutrition programs through Fiscal Year 2023. The current Farm Bill expires on September 30, 2018.

Congressman Bishop wrote in the letter:

“I am writing to express my support for a strong, robust farm bill that values conservation, invests in rural development, provides certainty to our farmers and ranchers, and adequately funds our food and nutrition programs.”

In May, Congressman Bishop opposed the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill due to substantial concerns with the negative impact the bill would have on rural communities, farmers, seniors, and children. In today’s letter, he urged the conferees to reject a number of the provisions included in the House version of the Farm Bill and instead adopt the more reasonable Senate provisions.

Congressman Bishop urged the conferees to reject the massive cuts to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) that were included in the House version.

Congressman Bishop wrote:

“The CSP is the nation’s largest working lands conservation program that awards farmers grants to address soil health, water quality and other environmental issues on their land. The CSP’s voluntary programs allow farmers and ranchers to improve grazing conditions and improve crop yields to help them thrive and stay competitive. Strong conservation programs will ensure our farmers are prosperous for generations to come.”

Rural development programs are also an important part of the Farm Bill. Congressman Bishop stressed the importance of rural development programs that continue to strengthen rural communities in middle and southwest Georgia, and nationwide, through access to broadband, infrastructure, housing, and economic development. He urged conferees to remove a House proposal that would increase electric costs for rural residents, as well as a House provision that would reduce resources for rural water and sewer infrastructure.

Congressman Bishop continued in the letter:

“The final bill must make rural development a priority. There is a huge disconnect between the level of economic prosperity and opportunity available in urban areas versus rural areas. Congress must make it easier for rural communities to gain access to capital for infrastructure and economic development.”

Additionally, last year, the nation, and farmers in particular, were struck by one severe weather event after another. The Senate bill includes a provision to provide $18 million for 2017 blueberry and peach losses due to extreme cold. Congressman Bishop urged the conference committee to adopt this provision in the farm bill. Congressman Bishop also urged continued investment in agriculture research done by institutions of higher education, particularly at 1890 Land-Grant Universities and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

For our farmers, this legislation comes on the heels of several years of declining commodity prices and in the midst of an escalating trade war. This period of great uncertainty for the nation’s farmers underscores the need to pass new Farm Bill legislation before the current Farm Bill expires.

Congressman Bishop also urged the conference committee to reject the House’s “so-called” reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which would dramatically harm our nation’s most vulnerable populations, including children, veterans, and senior citizens, as well as exacerbate the ongoing challenge of food deserts in many rural and urban communities.

Congressman Bishop wrote:

“While I agree that we need to cut fraud, waste and abuse, the drastic cuts and changes to SNAP in the House bill are unacceptable. SNAP is widely considered an efficient and successful safety net that offers desperately needed support to those in need. I strongly support the Senate’s bipartisan language that improves SNAP’s program integrity and operations, invests in pilot programs to better understand job training programs, and most importantly rejects strict work requirements that would kick deserving people, especially kids, veterans, and senior citizens, out of the program.”

Congressman Bishop concluded his letter by stating:

“I am confident Congress can come together and pass a comprehensive farm bill that meets the challenges our nation faces today.”