On June 28 the Senate passed its version of the 2018 farm bill with a bipartisan vote of 86-11. The House passed its version on June 21. The two measures will now be reconciled before a final version is sent to President Trump for his signature.
“Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member 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. And the fact that Leader McConnell agreed this should be a legislative priority helped move this very important bill forward in the Senate,” said Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation president. “Of course, no bill is ever perfect, but this bipartisan effort gives us a solid framework for progress. We do have concerns about some of the provisions that were added to the bill that make it harder for farmers to manage risk, but we are confident that those 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.”
The National Corn Growers Association was pleased with the robust federal crop insurance program included in the bill. The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) was supportive of the $100 million in additional funding for the dairy title baseline. The Senate version of the Farm Bill contains enhancements to the dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) sought by NMPF, including improved coverage levels and greater program flexibility.
The Senate bill — which renames the MPP as the “Dairy Risk Coverage” program — raises the maximum covered margin to $9 per cwt. and adjusts the minimum percentage of milk that can be insured. It also includes an important agreement reached between NMPF and the International Dairy Foods Association on price risk management. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Bob Casey (D-PA) included provisions in the bill that promote the consumption of fluid milk. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) included provisions of her Dairy Business Innovation Act in the bill to help foster innovation and new opportunities for the dairy industry.
Kevin Kester, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, pointed out the Senate’s rejection of an amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill offered by U.S. Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Cory Booker (N.J.) that sought to undermine commodity “checkoff” programs.
“The rejection of this amendment is a win for America’s cattle producers, who voluntarily created and continue to overwhelmingly support the beef checkoff system. Legislation like the Lee-Booker amendment is largely pushed by militant vegans and extreme political organizations that essentially want to end animal agriculture,” Kester said. “We’re happy that producers can continue to lead the checkoff system and contract with whatever producer-led groups will best promote beef consumption and research.”
The Senate bill also contains conservation provisions that will help producers access technical and financial assistance to carry out conservation practices on their operations. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) added a helpful amendment to give farmers greater flexibility in meeting their goals under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
Under the trade title, the Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill also re-authorizes the trade promotion programs.
As part of the Farm Bill, the Senate passed two amendments offered by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), including:
- An amendment by Portman and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to ensure that Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, can access funding under the Farm Bill that is available for 1890 land-grant institutions. Central State University is currently unable to receive the same level of federal funding as other historically black colleges, and this amendment would ensure that all 1890 land-grant intuitions are treated equal.
- An amendment by Portman and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) to promote rural community economic development, innovation, and broadband integration. Specifically, the Portman-Cortez Masto amendment would codify the Council on Rural Community Innovation to help promote policies that use technological innovation to resolve challenges related to health care, law enforcement, housing, and telecommunications. The amendment would also establish a Rural Broadband Integrated Working Group within the Council.
Senator Sherrod Brown, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, pushed for the inclusion of several items in the bill including: the Local Food and Regional Market Supply (FARMS) Act designed to assist farmers in selling products directly to consumers, creating rural jobs, and investing in local and regional food economies; and the Give Our Resources the Opportunity to Work (GROW) Act to improve water quality in Lake Erie and across Ohio by refocusing federal investments to improve water quality and soil health.