The NFU Board also established a resolution with suggested improvements to the bill, and some of those suggestions can be viewed here: https://ohfarmersunion.org/read-the-nfu-board-resolution-opposing-current-house-farm-bill/?
To view the full text of The Agricultural and Nutrition Act of 2018, visit: https://agriculture.house.gov/uploadedfiles/agriculture_and_nutrition_act_of_2018.pdf
See policy highlights here: https://agriculture.house.gov/uploadedfiles/agriculture_and_nutrition_act_top_10_highlights.pdf
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Although the 2018 draft farm bill has come to fruition for farmers and ranchers waiting to see details of the bill, the draft has brought about some friction.
The U.S. House Agriculture Committee released its proposed 2018 Farm Bill on April 12. On April 18, the markup bill passed on a partisan vote, with the Democrats in opposition. The bill, legislatively known as H.R.2, or The Agricultural and Nutrition Act of 2018, will go to a full House vote in the coming weeks.
Two influential agricultural organizations are also on opposing sides. The Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall responded positively to the proposed farm bill, while the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) was not pleased.
“The 2018 Farm Bill is ready for debate and amendments a mere six days after its introduction,” said Duvall in a Farm Bureau article released April 19. “A vote by the full House of Representatives is expected to soon follow. This is great news for farmers and ranchers everywhere. [The legislation] takes us one step closer to bringing certainty to families who face the toughest farm economy in more than a decade.”
However, the OEFFA said in a press release that the “draft farm bill released last week by House Agriculture Chairman Conaway (R-TX) does not adequately address farmers’ needs or protect natural resources.”
The bill proposes to eliminate the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, which OEFFA says offsets the annual costs of U.S. Department of Agriculture organic certification.
In the article released April 16, OEFFA Policy Program Coordinator Amalie Lipstreu said, “OEFFA vehemently opposes cutting the cost-share program. We have more demand for organic food than farmers are able to supply, and this program helps beginning and transitioning farmers enter what is a real bright spot in American agriculture.”
Conaway says a lot of ‘fine-tuning’
Following the vote, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) and Vice Chairman Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-5) hosted an agriculture telephone news conference, April 19. Conaway and Thompson shared opening remarks regarding the committee markup of the 2018 Farm Bill and opened the line to questions.
“Spirited debate, a lot of misunderstanding, still a lot of mis-information that the democrats are laboring under,” said Conaway. “We hope over the next several days, before we go to the floor, that those misunderstandings and flat wrong ideas can be cleared up, as to what our bill actually does.”
Conaway said that this farm bill was three years in the making, in addition to more than 100 hearings. “The non-SNAP titles are relatively the same as they were out of the 2014 bill,” said Conaway. He added that cotton and dairy were “taken care of” as part of the natural disaster bill that took place earlier this year. “We update the ARC county payment scheme to use better data. We allow for some adjustments to yield based on droughts—more fine-tuning in that one.”
“On conservation, we eliminate the CSP (Conservation Stewardship Program) program. We don’t abrogate any of those existing contracts. They all get to runoff, but we aren’t going to create any new CSP contract. That money will then pivot over to EQUIP, which many of us believe is a better use of taxpayer dollars, in terms of addressing conservation issues across this land.” EQIP is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
Lipstreu disagrees and said that, “cherry picking a few components of CSP to be included in the EQIP program is detrimental to comprehensive conservation planning and a disincentive to farmers who choose to implement advanced conservation practices on an ongoing basis.”
According to OEFFA’s news release, Lipstreau said that OEFFA is “pleased to see some positive provisions in this bill, but they are overshadowed by the elimination of tools and resources to help farmers and communities become more sustainable.”
Conaway said that with many of the other titles, there was more “fine-tuning than anything else.”
Conaway said that SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) program and the nutrition title received the most changes. During the conference call, Thompson spoke in more detail about SNAP and nutrition in the draft bill.
“The unfortunate part of yesterday [April 18] was the politics, some of the first politics I’ve seen from some of my colleagues that I’ve worked very closely with this nutrition title on,” said Thompson. “It seemed like they were focused on this nutrition title when we’ve done over 21 hearings, over 80 witnesses over the course of now the fourth year. That part was not so positive for me.”
Although the Democrats did not offer any amendments, Thompson said that the Republicans seized on four suggestions from the democrats in the nutrition title.
“Nineteen of [Democrats] wrote to the Chairman and ranking member, asking that we certainly continue to encourage states to collaborate with businesses and educational leaders to provide innovative employment and training options, opportunities and programs — And that’s what we put in the nutrition title,” Thompson said.
Any member of the House of Representatives is able to offer amendments during the decision process when it goes to the floor, but they must go through the rules process.
“Food and security is a big part of the farm bill. Seventy-seven percent of what we spend in the farm bill is to address food and secure people and families. With our food banks, we’ve taken that from 15 million to 60 million dollars funding.” Thompson added that 20 million of that specifically targets allowing food banks pantries to work directly with farmers.
He added that the farm bill also incentivizes nutrition, education and healthy eating through the continuation of the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) Program. Thompson said that the bill builds on this program by providing incentives and support to retailers.
“We are allowing the states, under this new bill, to keep up to 50 percent of what they discover in fraud and abuse,” said Thompson. But the states are required to invest that back into the nutrition title.
Conaway said that about 35 percent of people in this country is experiencing food insecurity as a result of acute financial distress. “Every person who finds them food insecure within that category ought to have a pathway to opportunity,” Conaway said.
“We can’t solve every problem known to man with this program, we’re not intending to. But we are trying to solve — for those folks who want to help themselves, get off that endless treadmill of poverty, and get on that on-ramp, we’re going to give them that helping hand up,” said Thompson.
NFU opposes bill
The National Farmers Union (NFU) shared a news release April 25 stating that NFU opposes the draft bill. According to the release NFU board members and other state presidents voted against the bill and NFU stated “The House Farm Bill (H.R. 2), as currently written, lacks the improvements needed to help farmers cope with continued low prices.”
The release quotes Ohio Farmers Union President Joe Logan: “We are very disappointed that the House Ag Committee has turned a blind eye toward the urgent need of farmers for a strong safety net and likewise to the nutrition needs of America’s least fortunate in both rural and urban communities.”