Sunday, December 10, 2023

Congress approves $867 billion Farm Bill

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By Barbara Olejnik

Poultry Times staff

WASHINGTON — Congress has approved an $867 billion, 807-page farm and agricultural bill.

The 2018 Farm Bill, officially the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, passed the Senate in a 87-to-13 vote on Dec. 10. The House followed on Dec. 12 with a 369 to 47 vote in favor, sending the bill to President Trump, who signed it into law on Dec. 20.

The five-year legislation includes commodity support, conservation, trade and international food aid, farm credit, nutrition assistance, rural development, research and Extension activities, forestry, energy, horticulture and crop insurance.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said passage of the Farm Bill “is good news because it provides a strong safety net for farmers and ranchers, who need the dependability and certainty 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.”

Among items in the Farm Bill are the following:

  • The bill combines USDA’s export promotion programs for funding purposes, including the Market Access Program (AP) and the Foreign Market Development (FD) program. The new, consolidated program will be called the Agricultural Trade Promotion and Facilitation Program. MAP would continue to be funded at $200 million annually and FMD at $34.5 million annually.
  • The bill builds upon the existing National Animal Health Laboratory Network by creating the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program along with a mandatory funding of $300 million. The program will provide tools and resources needed to help prevent, identify and respond to disease outbreaks.
  • Also included is the establishment of the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank, which will maintain sufficient quantities of veterinary countermeasures to appropriately and rapidly respond to damaging animal diseases.
  • The bill increases the overall acreage limit for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to 27 million from 24 million acres by fiscal year 2023, including 8.6 million acres to be devoted to continuous practices and 2 million for grasslands.
  • It also maintains authorization for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative at $700 million per year and directs USDA to use the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine “Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030” consensus report, which identifies priority research areas for developing a more efficient and competitive U.S. agricultural system.
  • Continued support for programs that combat invasive pets and diseases at $75 million annually, with the goal of enhancing its funding in five years by $7.5 million to fund the National Clean Plant Network.
  • Includes the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which officially removes industrial hemp from the federal list of controlled substances and treats the low-THC version of the cannabis plant like any other agricultural crop. The bill also provides provisions that permit hemp, barley and hops to be covered by crop insurance.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall termed the 2018 Farm Bill as a “complete package — one that will serve all Americans.”

“Farm and ranch families in particular will find a good degree of risk management support they need to help them weather the prolonged downturn in the agricultural economy that many of us are facing. Next year, we are going to face continued challenges across farm and ranch country, and this new farm bill gives us the tools we will need to weather this ongoing storm,” Duvall stated.

Two issues that did not make it into the final version of the Farm Bill concerned food stamps and eggs in California.

Deleted from the bill was the imposition of work requirements on people utilizing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, which is commonly known as food stamps. The plan, proposed by President Trump, would have required able-bodied adults without dependents or parents with children older that six-years-old, to work or spend 20 hours a week looking for a job in order to participate in the program.

Also deleted from final legislation was Rep. Steve King’s amendment, the Protect Interstate Commerce Act. In 2009, California enacted a bill that required space regulations for calves raised for veal, pregnant pigs and egg-laying hens. In 2010, California passed legislation that would require out-of-state egg producers to adhere to the same standards as in-state producers. The King amendment would have overturned California’s law mandating production practices for out-of-state egg producers.

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