Senate passes farm bill; conference committee next
On June 28 the U.S. Senate passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 by an 86-11 vote.
The bill, S. 3042 is the Senate’s version of the new farm bill. The 2014 farm bill is in effect until the end of September. Both Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue voted for the bill.
The House passed a separate bill on June 21. The two chambers will form a conference committee to work out the differences between the two bills.
“Georgia’s farmers need a viable farm bill. We are encouraged that the Senate passed its version with strong bipartisan support,” said Georgia Farm Bureau President Gerald Long. “We look forward to working with the conference committee to help get the new bill in place before the current one expires.”
Perdue, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee that helped write the bill, said the bill continues peanut and cotton support programs. The bill includes provisions that make disaster funding available to peach and blueberry growers who were affected by a late-season frost in 2017 under the Wildfire Hurricane Indemnity Program (WHIP).
The bill also allows the Farm Service Agency, which loans to disadvantaged and new farmers, to increase its loan authority during years when the demand for FSA loans unexpectedly exceeds its cap.
“Agriculture is Georgia’s number one industry and a major reason why our state continues to be the best state in the country in which to do business. One thing is clear – this farm bill is a jobs bill. America’s food security is economic security,” Perdue said. “This bill saves more money than the last farm bill, cracks down on food stamp fraud, and preserves programs that have helped Georgia farmers weather low commodity markets. Getting a bipartisan bill that balances the needs of every commodity and region is not an easy task. While this farm bill is not perfect, it will provide certainty to farmers in Georgia and around the country.”
Isakson praised the bill, saying it invests in the future of American agriculture.
“Our farmers feed the world, and it’s essential that we do everything we can to anticipate challenges down the road and make sure our policies reflect the needs of our farmers for the long term,” said Isakson, who offered several amendments to the legislation that were adopted to help Georgia farmers. “This important legislation provides numerous benefits for Georgia agriculture and for our rural communities, which are struggling with the opioid epidemic and with lack of access to modern-day essentials such as broadband. The 2018 farm bill will help our commodity producers when prices go down and expand trade assistance to ensure we remain competitive worldwide.”