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Farm bill praised

• Dec 25, 2018 at 4:00 PM

Lawmakers and industry officials are praising the 2018 farm bill, which President Donald Trump signed into law last week.

“Agriculture is one of Ohio’s most important industries, contributing more than $100 billion to our economy and putting food on the table for thousands of Ohio workers and people around the world,” U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said. “The farm bill will help promote economic development and job creation in our rural communities while providing Ohio farmers with the certainty and predictability they deserve. Of particular importance to Ohio, it includes my amendments to promote rural broadband access and to ensure that Central State University in Wilberforce has access to federal funding under the farm bill like other 1890 land-grant institutions.”

The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the farm bill on June 21, and the Senate passed its version on June 28. The president signed the reconciled House-Senate conference report, which passed the Senate on Dec. 11, into law — also called the “Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018” — on Dec. 20.

“This farm bill will help protect the Great Lakes,” Portman added. “It will help keep Lake Erie clean and our drinking water safe by increasing funding for many conservation programs that help reduce nutrient runoff into waters like Lake Erie. The legislation triples funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), from $100 million to $300 million for the next five years. It also helps those gripped by addiction in rural areas and will continue Congress’ work to make the federal government a better partner in overcoming the opioid crisis. This new law is a great step forward for Ohio’s farmers and our agriculture industry.”

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said the legislation contains several provisions he fought to include — especially ones important to Ohio farmers.

Brown, as a member of the committee tasked with reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions of the farm bill, said those provisions include:

• Provisions to protect Lake Erie and improve water quality in Ohio

• Local Food and Regional Market Supply (FARMS) Act

• A provision to improve funding for Central State

• Improvements to make the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program more workable for Midwest farmers

“At the beginning of the year, I pledged to get the farm bill done, so that we could provide Ohio farmers with the certainty they deserve,” said Brown, the first Ohioan to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in more than 50 years. “And I’m proud that this bipartisan bill will do that. We secured important wins for Ohio dairy farmers, as well as soybean and corn farmers. This final bill protects funding for critical nutrition programs that feed Ohio families, makes historic investments in local foods, and continues to invest in programs to improve water quality in Lake Erie and across the state.”

Portman said Central State will be able to 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 institutions are treated equal.

The farm bill includes another amendment offered by Portman and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), this one promoting rural community economic development, innovation and broadband integration. Specifically, the Portman-Cortez Masto amendment will 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 also will establish a Rural Broadband Integrated Working Group within the Council to identify regulatory barriers to broadband deployment, encourage public-private partnerships, and support competition.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue also praised the passage of the farm bill.

“This is a great day for our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers, as President Trump’s signature on this bill is a Christmas present to American agriculture,” Perdue said Thursday. “Farmers take financial risks every year as a matter of doing business, so having a farm bill in place gives them peace of mind to make their decisions for the future. Since early talks on this farm bill began back in 2017, I’ve always believed it would be more evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, and that has borne out to be true.

“The bill bolsters farm safety net programs, protects federal crop insurance, and maintains strong rural development and research initiatives. The legislation reinvents the Margin Protection Program for dairy producers, providing a boost to coverage levels and a reduction in premiums after the program fell short in the 2014 farm bill. The bill also includes a new Animal Disease Prevention and Management program, providing annual funding for three animal health programs. This includes a new vaccine bank focused on foot-and-mouth disease and extended funding of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network to protect our borders and improve food safety.”

Perdue added: “While we would have liked more progress on forest management reforms and work requirements for certain Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients, we look forward to using our authorities to make improvements in those areas. All told, this is a farm bill that should be welcomed by producers, and at USDA we will eagerly implement its provisions. At USDA, we were pleased to provide a tremendous amount of technical assistance to Congress as legislators wrote the bill. I thank the president for his leadership on this legislation, and commend the Senate and House Agriculture Committees for their many months of hard work.”

The American Soybean Association (ASA) officials applauded Trump and Congress for quickly finalizing the farm bill.

ASA leaders Davie Stephens, president and Kentucky soy grower, and John Heisdorffer, chairman and grower from Iowa, were among those attending the farm bill signing ceremony Thursday afternoon at the White House.

“This is a success for agriculture to have this legislation passed before the end of the year,” Stephens said. “We appreciate the level of assurance the bill provides and will now be able to better focus on working with the Administration and Congress on other issues affecting the competitiveness and profitability of U.S. beans.”

ASA officials specifically noted their satisfaction in these provisions in the bill: the ARC and PLC program being maintained; a strong crop insurance program; funding for the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program and Market Access Program (MAP) within the Agriculture Trade and Facilitation Program; baseline funding of the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP); acreage limit increases for the Conservation Research Program (CRP); continued authorization for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and support of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) consensus report data; and enactment of the Ag Connectivity Provision that expands rural broadband connections, including mobile coverage.

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