Senate Farm Bill Markup Scheduled for June 13

  
On Friday June 8, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry released draft language of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, more commonly known as the Farm Bill. The Committee, led by Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., plans to consider the legislation on Wednesday, June 13, and hold a full Senate vote later this summer.
 
By and large, the bipartisan legislation does little to change the status quo. Little to no regulatory reforms found in the House version of the bill, which failed in the House 198-213 in May, were included in the Senate version. The bill does not contain language to extend the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) nor does it contain language to make Clean Water Act revisions dealing with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits – both of which ARA worked to have included in the House version.
 
The Nutrition Title, which includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), did not see the same work requirements included in the House version – which ultimately lead to the House bill’s failure.
 
For the most part, the Senate version looks a lot like the version signed into law in 2014.
 
Here are a few of the high points included in the bill:
 
Energy. Programs that were designed to promote energy efficiency and development of fuel and chemicals from biomass are left without mandatory funding for the most part, a major blow to industries that rely on the programs. The Rural Energy for America Program would be provided with $50 million a year, the same amount it was allocated in the 2014 farm bill. But funding for other programs, including biomass crop assistance and advanced biofuel support, would be left up to congressional appropriators. The House bill would eliminate the farm bill energy title as well as the permanent funding baseline for REAP. 

Organic agriculture. The Senate bill would increase funding for the Organic Research and Extension Initiative to $50 million a year by 2022, up from the $20 million the program now receives. The bill also would provide $11.5 million a year for organic certification cost-share and $5 million in one-time funding for the Organic Data Initiative, which collects market data. The draft also would impose new regulations on imported organic products to guard against fraud. 
 
Local and urban agriculture. The Senate bill would combine USDA's value-added producer grants and the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program into a new Local Agriculture Market Program funded at $60 million a year. 
The bill would establish an office of urban agriculture and innovative production at USDA, and provide $4 million a year in research and education on urban and indoor agriculture.
 
Research: The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, which was created by the 2014 farm bill, would receive another $200 million, the same amount as Congress originally provided in seed money. The House bill would provide no new funding for FFAR. 
 
Trade promotion. As in the House bill, the Senate draft would combine USDA’s export promotion programs for funding purposes, including the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program, one of the 39 programs that is slated to expire this year. 
 
USDA reorganization. The bill would provide legal authority for a key part of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue's reorganization plan, which combined the Natural Resources Conservation Service with the Farm Service Agency and the Risk Management Agency, creating a new "farm production and conservation" mission area under Undersecretary Bill Northey
 
Read the draft bill here and a section-by-section summary here
 
(Source: Agri-Pulse - https://www.agri-pulse.com/articles/11089-senate-ag-committee-releases-draft-farm-bill-text)

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