Congress approved with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, the 2018 Farm Bill and later, the President Donald Trump signed the bill into law.
After eight months of political battles between Republicans and Democrats over the bill content, negotiators from both houses finally reached an agreement to push through legislation that includes $867 billion to cover expenses in subsidies agricultural, forest management, access to rural broadband, urban agriculture, conservation programs, among others.
The final version does not include cuts to benefits or changes to work requirements for the food stamp program known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. It does boost the initiative providing job training to support more people moving into full-time work.
Last Tuesday, the Senate passed the farm bill 87-13 and on Wednesday afternoon the House voted 369-47 in favor.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, said that passage of the farm bill is good news because it provides a strong safety net for farmers and ranchers, who need the dependability and certainty this legislation affords.
“This farm bill will help producers make decisions about the future, while also investing in important agricultural research and supporting trade programs to bolster exports,” said Perdue.
The passage of the legislation was also welcomed by most sectors in the agricultural and supermarket industry in the country.
The National Grocers Association, which represents the independent supermarket industry, expressed its satisfaction with the passage of the final bill that strengthens the public-private partnership between the federal government and supermarket operators in the SNAP program.
“This legislation addresses important issues for independent shopkeepers, including protection against harmful processing fees and increased investment in the Nutrition Incentives for Food Insecurity (FINI) program. We are especially pleased to see that the agricultural law contains a language that was suggested by the NGA which would direct significantly more FINI funds to independent supermarkets,” said Peter Larkin, NGA president and CEO.
Another national organization that worked with Congress leadership in the bill’s drafting, was the Food Marketing Institute.
“The 2018 Farm Bill leverages technology to better serve every customer shopping in our members’ grocery stores. It drives modernization in the electronic benefit transfer (EBT) systems, while protecting retailers from unfair and predatory interchange and processing fees. FMI is also pleased the Farm Bill encourages creative proposals from retailers who would like to incentivize SNAP customers to buy more fresh fruits, vegetables, milk and whole grains in addition to permanently authorizing the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program,” said Hanna Walker, FMI’s senior director of technology and nutrition policy.
As part of this Farm Bill, the fresh produce industry secured major victories, which are related to increasing access access to fresh produce in federal nutrition programs, breaking down trade barriers, focusing additional resources towards research priorities, and combating pest and disease challenges.
Overall, the Farm bill represents over $3 billion in resources and policy changes dedicated to these and other important programs targeted by the fresh produce industry, according to the United Fresh Produce Association.
“The Agriculture Improvement Act is vital to the ability of the fresh produce industry to ensure Americans have access to nutritious foods,” said Robert Guenther, Senior Vice President of Public Policy for United Fresh.
The dairy industry joined the voices of congratulations to Congress for passing the farm bill with overwhelming bipartisan support.
“The new Farm Bill enhances assistance to farmers when the market price for a corn, soybeans, wheat, etc., falls to critically low levels as well as provides access to more risk-management tools for dairy operations,” stated the American Dairy Coalition.