In a rapid-fire sequence of events, the U.S. Senate moved quickly this afternoon to approve the final, budget-neutral 2018 Farm Bill proposal, 87 to 13. The compromise package had been recommended and released by the Farm Bill Conference Committee just hours earlier today.
The American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) board of directors had voted unanimously to endorse the Farm Bill Conference Committee package, citing its comprehensive provisions that support production agriculture through risk management, crop insurance, programs that facilitate market development, and nutrition assistance.
“The proposed 2018 farm bill is a complete package,” said Michigan Farm Bureau President Carl Bednarski, who also serves on the AFBF board. “Farmers in particular will find a good degree of risk-management support they need to help them weather the prolonged downturn in the agricultural economy.”
According to Bednarski, the AFBF board expressed its appreciation to House and Senate agricultural leaders – Senators Pat Roberts and Debbie Stabenow and Representatives Michael Conaway and Collin Peterson — for the months of hard work they invested in crafting the bill.
“We are grateful for Sen. Stabenow’s commitment and leadership in drafting a truly bipartisan farm bill that serves the needs of all Michigan farmers and consumers,” Bednarski said, adding that the U.S. House of Representatives needs to follow suit and act quickly to pass the package as well.
According to AFBF, the U.S. House could be voting on the farm bill conference committee legislation as soon as Wednesday, following Senate approval today. Preliminary indications are that USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue is supporting the measure and is encouraging President Donald Trump to approve the measure after it clears both chambers.
Stabenow, as Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, praised the Farm Bill conference report, saying the bipartisan bill strongly supports Michigan’s farmers and agricultural economy.
“The 2018 Farm Bill is a bipartisan victory that has Michigan on every page,” Stabenow said. “This is a strong bill that will grow Michigan’s diverse agricultural economy and support our farmers, families, and rural communities. I’m committed to getting this bill across the finish line by the end of the year.”
According to Stabenow, the bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill equips Michigan farmers with risk management tools, including:
- Expanded crop insurance improves access for veterans, beginning farmers, and Michigan’s fruit and vegetable growers.
- Improvements to Agriculture Risk Coverage, Price Loss Coverage risk management tools for farmers and new support for dairy producers, spearheaded by Stabenow, creates improved dairy coverage options at more affordable rates and refunds up to $58 million in premiums paid under the former program.
- Permanent export opportunities willhelp Michigan farmers find new global markets for their goods.
- Continued support for specialty crop growers, which Stabenow first authored in a new title in the 2008 Farm Bill, will strengthen Michigan’s diverse fruit and vegetable industry, increase productivity and drive demand for the food they grow.
- New help for beginning farmers, veterans, and urban agriculture creates opportunities to expand Michigan’s diverse agricultural economy and builds the bench to support the future of Michigan agriculture.
- Strengthened support for organic agriculture protects the integrity of Michigan organic products and helps farmers transition into a fast-growing sector of agriculture.
- Investments in agricultural research support the ground-breaking science and technology research being done at Michigan State University, fueling innovation and safeguarding Michigan’s agricultural economy.
Additional Farm Bill provision highlights:
- ARC/PLC Improvements:
- Provide a nationwide yield update for Price Loss Coverage (PLC) beginning with the 2020 crop year and allowing PLC to better respond to market conditions;
- Making several key improvements to Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), including increased yield plugs and yield trend adjustments;
- Providing a new ARC/PLC election for 2019 and 2020 and authorizing annual ARC/PLC elections (crop‐by‐crop and farm‐by‐farm) beginning in 2021;
- Increasing loan rates to more relevant levels;
- Improving the dairy safety net for large, mid‐sized, and small dairy producers; and
- Improving the incentives and opportunities within the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and shifting additional resources ($275 million per year) to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and targets the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to our most environmentally sensitive lands.
- Laying the groundwork for improved Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Policy (SNAP) policy by preserving the administration’s flexibility to rein in SNAP work requirement waivers for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs).
- Making significant improvements to rural broadband delivery, including forward‐looking standards to ensure people are meeting next‐generation rural broadband needs.
- Enhancing U.S. agricultural trade by streamlining the suite of market promotion initiatives under one umbrella and providing $470 million in additional funding.
- Protecting crop insurance and making several key improvements, including new insurance products for forage producers and improvements to whole farm revenue coverage for specialty crop producers.
- Providing an increase of more than $600 million in funding for research, extension, and education projects, which keeps American agriculture at the forefront of innovation and productivity.