The Farm Bill is an omnibus legislation, impacting food, farms, conservation, and rural economies. It is passed every four or five years, and this time around the process has been a protracted one.
On Tuesday the Senate voted by 87 to 13 to approve a US$867 billion farm bill, which provides billions of dollars in subsidies to U.S. farmers, legalizes hemp, bolsters farmers markets and rejects stricter limits on food stamps pushed by House Republicans.
The legislation will now head to the House, where it is reportedly also expected to pass. President Donald Trump expressed support for the legislation on Tuesday and said he expects it will be signed into law.
Western Growers CEO Tom Nassif commended the farm bill negotiators, saying the legislation “acknowledges the growing importance of the specialty crop industry to American agriculture”.
He added that it offers “real progress on many of our top priorities, including funding for mechanization research and development, as well as improved access to crop insurance tools”.
Additional achievements he noted in the bill include funding increases for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, the continuation of funding for citrus greening research, and the creation of an Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority pilot program – a private sector-modeled approach to funding high-priority research needs.
He also welcomed the “positive reforms” to the National Organics Standards Board and improved access to rural water infrastructure funds for local communities.
But he said Western Growers was “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.
But he finished by 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.”
The United Fresh Produce Association also commended the House and the Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee for approving a bill that “includes the priorities of United Fresh and our members”.
“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,” the organization said.
It added that 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,” it said.
“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.”