Senate Agriculture Committee Passes Farm Bill
WASHINGTON, DC - The Senate Agriculture Committee marked up and voted to pass the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, clearing at 20 to 1.
The United Fresh Association, upon the announcement, applauded the Senate Agriculture Committee, in particular the leadership of Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, for introducing and passing the Act.
“In particular for the fresh fruit and vegetable industry, the bill continues and enhances key policy priorities including expanding research and trade resources, increasing access to fresh produce through federal nutrition programs, and providing needed policy and funding on pest and disease exclusion and state block grants. Additionally, new programs that help urban agriculture, greenhouse operations, and focus on mechanization research will only further enhance consumers’ access to healthy and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables,” the Association stated in a press release.
As we reported previously, several ag aspects were addressed, including providing certainty for farmers, ranchers, and growers; investing in the rural community; growing the diversity of the American agricultural economy; and strengthening integrity and food access for families, among other items, all of which can be read about in detail here.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) pledged that the full Senate will vote on the entire 2018 farm bill before the July 4 recess, according to CNBC, having said he's "hopeful the House will get to theirs, but it will probably look a little different than ours."
“[A House vote soon] would give us a chance to get into conference and actually make a law here," said McConnell.
Taking a bipartisan approach in the crafting of their measure, The Senate Agriculture Committee included many provisions important to our industry:
- $80 million in funding for all specialty crops under the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) and new prioritization for mechanization projects
- $25 million annually for citrus greening research through the Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund
- $4 million annually for a new research initiative focusing on urban agriculture
- Reauthorization of the Office of Pest Management Policy
- Full $85 million in funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) with $5 million set aside for multi-state programs to be administered through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)
- The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) is maintained as a FRESH only program
- An increase to $50 million in mandatory funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program (FINI)
- Full funding for trade programs such as the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program (TASC)
- A new Harvesting Health Pilot Program that provides a “produce prescription” to those who may be suffering from diet-related conditions
The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, where United Fresh serves on the leadership team, made up of more than 120 member organizations, has been amongst the leading groups managing the Farm Bill debate since the 2008 Farm Bill.