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Agreement reached on farm bill, clearing way for vote

Lawmakers have reached an agreement on the farm bill, clearing the way for votes in the House and Senate.

The massive package -- $867 billion over 10 years – funds key farm programs but substantially leaves intact the federal food stamp program that serves 40 million low-income Americans.

The farm bill establishes federal agriculture and food policy for five years, providing more than $400 million in farm subsidies and conservation programs.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, said in a statement, “We overcame many differences to deliver a strong bipartisan farm bill for our farmers, families and rural communities.”

“While we would have liked to see more progress on work requirements for SNAP recipients and forest management reforms, the conference agreement does include several helpful provisions, and we will continue to build upon these through our authorities,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

The Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association released a statement commending the leadership of the House and Senate committees for developing this legislation.

“We appreciate the dedicated efforts of the House and Senate agriculture committee leadership in bringing forward a bill that will put more nutritious produce in schools, provide critical research funding to fight citrus greening and other invasive plant pests and diseases, and help us to expand markets for our crops,” said Mike Stuart, chief executive officer of FFVA and a co-chair of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance. “This bill includes priority programs that will allow farmers to continue to put safe, healthful fruits and vegetables on Americans’ tables.”

Western Growers Association also signaled support for the agreement, with Chief Executive Officer Tom Nassif saying, “All in all, we applaud the committee leaders, conferees and staff for their diligence in producing a strong, bi-partisan farm bill, and we urge swift passage and enactment before the end of the year.”

He said the association is pleased with the additional achievements with the 2018 farm bill, including funding increases for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative; the continuation of funding for vital citrus greening research; the creation of an Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority pilot program, an innovative, private sector-modeled approach to funding high-priority research needs; positive reforms to the National Organics Standards Board; improved access to rural water infrastructure funds for our local communities; and a waiver of the adjusted gross income limit for conservation program eligibility, ensuring growers will not be excluded from smart stewardship efforts simply because of their financial viability.

However, Nassif said WGA is disappointed that the final legislation does not contain much-needed regulatory reforms in the area of pest and disease management. 

“A real opportunity was missed to reconcile the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act with the Endangered Species Act, which remains a long-standing issue that must be addressed in the near future,” he said.

“United Fresh commends the House and the Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee for approving a Farm Bill conference report that includes the priorities of United Fresh and our members,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association. "We are proud to be part of the leadership team of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, which has focused its efforts over the last three Farm Bills to ensure that our critical segment of agriculture is a vital partner in developing farm and agriculture legislation for the United States.  By all accounts the Agriculture Improvement Act has bolstered the government’s commitment for a strong and dynamic produce industry. The fresh produce industry has much at stake in this legislation and we are grateful for the recognition of the role our industry plays in providing nutritious foods for Americans and those around the world. We look forward to continuing to work in a bipartisan manner to ensure Congressional passage of this legislation so that it reaches the President’s desk before the conclusion of the 115th Congress.”

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