WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02), Ranking Member of the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, released the following statement on the enactment of the Farm Bill. It was passed by the House of Representatives in a vote of 369 to 47. Congressman Bishop supported the legislation. The Senate passed the legislation by a vote of 87-13. Today, it was signed into law by the President.
“I gladly provided my support for the 2018 Farm Bill. After months of negotiations, I am pleased that many of the harmful, short-sighted provisions of the original House bill, that I initially voted against in June, were dropped. From the beginning of this process, I have stressed the need to strengthen the farmer safety net, invest in rural development, maintain conservation programs, and adequately fund our food and nutrition programs. This bill does those things, and more, and most importantly, it provides stability and certainty to those who rely on its vital programs.
“The bill extends commodity protections for agriculture products including peanuts, cotton, soybeans, corn, wheat, oats, rice, and grain sorghum. The bill largely maintains and builds on the farmer safety net programs from the 2014 Farm Bill by making improvements to the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) that allow farmers greater choice. It improves farmers’ cash flow and access to credit by increasing marketing loan rates. For the purpose of payments and benefits, it expands the definition of actively engaged in farming to include first cousins, nieces, and nephews. The bill does not include reductions to payment limits and did not adopt a provision to reduce the Adjusted Gross Income limitation to $700,000 from $900,000.
“The bill allows farmers to update their average crop yields with USDA, which increases the amount of support they can receive. And while I was disappointed that the Senate amendment to provide $18 million for blueberry and peach losses in 2017 was not included, I am nonetheless pleased that the bill increased the cost reimbursement for beginning farmers, ranchers, and veterans under the Tree Assistance Program to 75 percent, which covers pecans and other tree crops. On the forestry front, the bill also maintains forest pest and disease treatment programs, administered by the U.S. Forest Service.
“The agreement is also a big win for rural communities. It reauthorizes rural water and wastewater programs, and authorizes an additional $350 million for broadband infrastructure, which is a stark reminder that too many people in rural America still lack adequate broadband. Additionally, the bill includes provisions to combat the opioid epidemic, improve rural hospital financing, and promote rural entrepreneurship. The bill also establishes a rural health liaison that will be responsible for working with stakeholders and other agencies to effectively respond to rural health needs.
“The agreement kept the structure of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which helps farmers to address soil health, water quality, and other environmental issues on their land, as well as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a voluntary program that incentivizes farmers to implement conservation practices. The agreement also increased the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) by 3 million acres to 27 million acres.
“Earlier this year, I urged my colleagues to invest in agriculture research. I am happy that the grant program that awards scholarships to students at 1890 Land-Grant institutions received $40 million in mandatory funding and another $40 million in discretionary authorization, which will help young African-Americans pursue a career in agriculture. The bill also creates three centers of excellence at 1890 land-grants to focus on food security and rural quality of life. Additionally, the bill increases research into automation and mechanization for fruits and vegetables. With these important investments in research, American agriculture will remain unparalleled in the world.
“The agreement also includes mandatory funding for the promotion of U.S. agricultural exports, through such programs as the Market Access Program. It also provides for the availability of marketing agreements and orders for pecans and cherries. Many farmers and ranchers remain concerned about retaliatory tariffs and these programs will help farmers explore new markets and opportunities.
“Additionally, the Farm Bill includes funding that I requested for the newly established Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program. This new program merges the Beginning Farmer and Ranchers Development Program (BFRDP) and the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers (OASDVFR), which will allow USDA to more effectively reach and invest in these groups to ensure their success.
“Finally, the agreement does not include new, onerous work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. Instead it increases job training opportunities to help people find work. Last year, SNAP helped more than 42 million people, and some 1.6 million Georgians. It is widely considered an efficient and successful safety net that offers desperately needed support to those in need.
“I thank my colleagues in the House and Senate for their diligent work on this legislation.”