Dec 11, 2018Farm Bill agreement reached by Congress, vote expected soon
Congress has been reached a bipartisan agreement on a new Farm Bill, with a vote expected later this week.
The months-long debate finally ceded following Republican concession on a plan to tighten restrictions on food stamps. The full report can be found here.
The previous Farm Bill expired in September. The new agreement gives farmers some certainty ahead of the new Democratically controlled House of Representatives being inaugurated in January.
The National Potato Council applauded the new bill and urged Congress to ratify it for presidential approval.
“This new Farm Bill makes needed investments in specialty crop research, restores funding for vital trade programs and offers certainty to farmers for the next five years,” NPC CEO John Keeling said. “The potato industry strongly supports this bill and urges Congress to send it to the President for his signature immediately.”
The NPC cited four primary points in the bill that will assist specialty crop growers.
- Keeping the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program operating at its fully authorized level and enhancing the efficiency of its operations to address foreign trade barriers.
- Ensuring the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) allows all specialty crops the opportunity to compete for its fully authorized level of $80 million annually in research funding.
- Supporting APHIS Pest and Disease Programs to ensure they keep pace with current and future threats.
- Reauthorization of the Specialty Crop Block Grant program.
The National Potato Council is a founding member of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance that offers a unified voice for the fruit, vegetable, nut and related commodities in the Farm Bill.
Looser subsidy stipulations
In addition, the bill extends eligibility for crop subsidies to farmers’ extended family members, including nieces, nephews and cousins. Not everyone is in favor of extension, reported Reuters, criticism stemming from stipulations already being too broad.
A congressional staffer defended the move. “Farming is no longer about being on top of a tractor,” he said. The staffer added that making more family members eligible for aid could help attract younger generations to farming business.
Following the November midterm elections, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue predicted a new bill before the end of the year.