The House of Representatives today passed the 2018 Farm Bill conference report. The bill passed the Senate yesterday by a vote of 87-13. The bill is now headed to President Trump, who has indicated his support for the bill, telling reporters, “We think the Farm Bill is in very good shape. Our farmers are well taken care of. Again, that’ll be quite bipartisan.”
“This swift legislative action taken by both chambers represents our commitment to provide certainty and predictability to farmers, families, and rural America. We look forward to having this good bill signed into law,” said U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., in a joint statement.
“The passage of the 2019 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,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “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. While I feel there were missed opportunities in forest management and in improving work requirements for certain SNAP recipients, this bill does include several helpful provisions and we will continue to build upon these through our authorities. I commend Congress for bringing the Farm Bill across the finish line and am encouraging President Trump to sign it.”
“The bipartisan bill includes important commodity price protections that will provide producers and community banks with greater business-planning certainty over the next five years,” said Independent Community Bankers of America President and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey. “This is essential during an era of low commodity prices, sharply lower net farm income, and foreign trade uncertainties. The farm bill also maintains a strong crop insurance program, increases USDA guaranteed farm loan limits to $1.75 million, and provides for the possible increase in guaranteed USDA rural development loans—all of which are ICBA and community bank priorities.
“Family farmers and sustainable food and farm advocates fought hard for this farm bill, and while there are certainly some provisions with which we are disappointed, we are overall glad to see the bill moving forward and to the President’s desk,” said Juli Obudzinski, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Interim-Policy Director. “By establishing permanent, mandatory funding for innovative programs like the Local Agriculture Market Program and Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach program, Congress has made a pledge to ensure that our nation’s next generation of farmers and ranchers have the tools and resources they need to thrive, and that our local food and farm systems can continue to flourish. We are also pleased that the bill includes permanent mandatory funding for organic research and refrains from cutting or otherwise hindering critical nutrition assistance programs like SNAP.”
“Iowa Corn welcomes the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill before the start of the new year,” said Iowa Corn Growers Association President Curt Mether. “ICGA is pleased to see there were no cuts to the current crop insurance program and a continuation of the Conservation Stewardship Program. ICGA also appreciates the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development trade programs will be funded at full levels for the next five years. The Genomes to Phenomes Initiative has been included in the bill as it is essential for Iowa corn farmers in developing new varieties allowing the potential for higher yields.”
“We eagerly await the president’s signature on this legislation and we know that Agriculture Secretary Perdue will implement it as quickly and efficiently as possible,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.
The department announced details Thursday of its rural broadband pilot, making good on a 2017 administration promise to invest in the rural economy.
Numbers: $600 million in grants and loans, to help build out broadband capacity in underserved, sparsely populated communities. The funding comes from the omnibus spending bill, H.R. 1625 (115), passed in March. Nonprofits, for-profits and local governments are among those that can apply. USDA won’t fully fund projects; instead, it will provide a 25 percent matching grant, a 2 percent low-interest loan, or a combo of the two.
Timing: A proposed rule is expected to be released in May. There will be three application periods between April and June of next year. USDA will work to roll out grants and loans next summer through the latter half of 2019, according to Chad Parker, assistant administrator for telecommunication programs at the Rural Utilities Service.
Speed: Projects that get funding under the so-called ReConnect Program must create access speeds of at least 25 megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload. USDA’s initial guidelines of 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream were criticized for not being fast enough.