(Albany Herald): Scott: Farm bill ready for House Ag Committee
Congressman Austin Scott, R-Georgia, a Member of the House Agriculture Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit, released a statement Sunday upon completion of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, also known as the “farm bill.”
“For the last three years, members of the Agriculture Committee have been working around the clock to craft a farm bill that meets the unique needs of our agriculture sector and rural America,” Scott said. “Through the 114 hearings, six listening sessions, and testimony from hundreds of stakeholders, we today deliver a piece of legislation that gives our farmers, ranchers and producers the tools they need to provide food, not only for America, but also for the rest of the world. This legislation also strengthens our nation’s nutrition programs to assist those who struggle to put food on the table, while helping people gain the skills necessary to secure well-paying jobs and achieve the American Dream.
“The farm bill is a monumental piece of legislation, and I am proud to stand with my colleagues today in introducing this optimistic outlook for the farm economy, our rural communities, America’s producers and nutrition assistance recipients for the next several years.”
Through negotiations, Scott was able to help maintain the current commodity policy provisions for peanut producers, maintain the commodity policy for seed cotton, reauthorize the Rural Utility Service Loans and Broadband grants, and prioritize research and development of additional risk management policies for specialty crops like peaches and pecans.
Written every four to five years, the farm bill is the nation’s primary agriculture policy tool. In addition to containing annual spending for the Department of Agriculture, the farm bill also includes provisions concerning crop insurance, rural development, specialty crops, and research, extension, and education programs. The current farm bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014, funds farm programs through 2018.
Highlights of the legislation include:
— FARM POLICY: Reauthorizes and strengthens the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage options through 2023.
— NUTRITION: Improves and modernizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, including through strengthening existing work requirements and readjusting asset benchmarks to allow recipients a pathway off the program.
— TRADE: Authorizes and restores funding for vital tools for trade promotion and market development;
— REGULATORY REFORM: Streamlines and reduces regulatory burdens and cuts red tape across the conservation programs, such as eliminating unnecessary and burdensome Data Universal Numbering System and System for Award Management registration requirements for producers.
— RURAL DEVELOPMENT: Authorizes substantial annual appropriations for rural broadband and requires USDA to establish forward-looking broadband standards. The farm bill also strengthens rural development initiatives to promote jobs and economic activity in rural America where employment is suffering due to the sharp downturn in the farm economy. Additionally, the farm bill provides the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to prioritize projects that help communities meet the challenges of the opioid crisis.
— ANIMAL HEALTH: Establishes a new National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program, designed to protect the health of the nation’s livestock sector.
— SPECIALTY AND ORGANIC CROPS: Restores funding for Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops under the new International Market Development Program. It also seeks to expand and improve crop insurance policies for specialty crops and increases funding for the Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative and provides resources for combating fraudulent imports of organic products coming into the U.S.
— BEGINNING FARMERS & RANCHERS: Enhances access to crop insurance and establishes a scholarship program at 1890 Land Grant Institutions designed to assist students interested in careers in agriculture.
The House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to mark up the bill text on Wednesday.