Following a strong 86-11 bi-partisan vote of support, the U.S. Senate quickly passed their version of the 2018 farm bill on Thursday evening, with both Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Sen. Gary Peters supporting the measure.
Michigan Farm Bureau President (MFB), Carl Bednarski, a Tuscola County cash-crop farmer, commended Sen. Stabenow for her bipartisan leadership with her Republican counter-part, Sen. Pat Roberts within the Senate Ag Committee for quickly advancing the 2018 farm bill. He says continued progress will help provide Michigan farmers with certainty in the midst of a four-year agricultural recession.
“As a ranking member, Sen. Stabenow worked with other members of the Senate Agriculture Committee to deliver a bill that will continue to provide the risk management tools that America’s farmers need more than ever before,” Bednarski said. “As a result of her efforts, the 2018 farm bill is one step closer to being completed before the current 2014 farm bill expires on Sept. 30.”
With net farm income down more 50 percent over the last four years — the steepest decline since the Great Depression — Bednarski said the 2018 farm bill is vital in providing an economic safety net for farmers, consumers in need, as well as rural Michigan. “Many of Michigan’s rural communities and scores of local businesses rely on the food and agriculture sector as customers to support their local economies,” he noted.
American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall said the news couldn’t have come at a better time for America’s farmers as they continue to face a challenging agricultural economy, a shaky outlook for agricultural export markets and a dire ag labor shortage.
“No bill is ever perfect, but this bipartisan effort gives us a solid framework for progress,” said Duvall. “But we are confident that issues can be satisfactorily addressed by the House/Senate conference committee. We look forward to working with conferees from both houses to get the best possible farm bill done for rural America.”
According to MFB National Legislative Counsel, John Kran, the House passed their version of the farm bill, H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, a week earlier on June 21st. The House and Senate are now expected to go to conference to work out differences between the two bills, shortly after the July 4 holiday recess.
“Conference negotiations could be a bit contentious with the differences in the nutrition title,” Kran said citing additional work requirements for SNAP benefits proposed in the House farm bill. “From an ag perspective, there are also some differences between conservation provisions between the bills”
According to Kran, the Senate version addresses several recommendations from the MFB Farm Bill Task Force — a statewide committee of farmers formed in 2017 to identify current farm program issues and propose solutions which were shared with Michigan’s Congressional Delegation.
“We’re thrilled to see our task force’s recommendations calling for improvements to the dairy program, Whole Farm Revenue Protection, and provisions for the creation of new insurance products for the hops and greenhouse industries, included in the Senate version,” Kran said. “It also maintains important tools for the specialty crop sector like block grants and research, improves conservation programs, provides certainty for export programs, and enhances rural broadband efforts — all of which are priorities for Michigan.”