The Ripon Advance
Aiming to help the nation’s farmers and ranchers navigate a challenging economic climate, the U.S. House Agriculture Committee approved the 2018 Farm Bill on April 18 that reflects the priorities of U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Kristi Noem (R-SD) Don Bacon (R-NE) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).
The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, H.R. 2, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill, would strengthen the “farm safety net” so that farmers and ranchers can better handle a 52 percent decline in net farm income and depressed prices, according to the House Republican Conference. Significantly, it would also make 35 improvements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), particularly by strengthening and streamlining existing work requirements for capable adults, House Republicans noted. Formerly known as the food stamp program, SNAP provides food security for millions of eligible, low-income families.
Rep. Davis’ office released data indicating that 67 percent of work-capable adults on SNAP in Illinois are not working, and there are 6.1 million available jobs across the country.
As a result, Rep. Davis, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, applauded the Farm Bill’s investments in SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) programs, and its streamlined work requirement of 20 hours per week for able adults ages 18-59. The measure would also help lift families out of poverty by allowing SNAP recipients to have up to $7,000 in household assets, up from $2,250, and by allowing households with elderly or disabled members to hold up to $12,000 in assets, up from $3,500, according to information provided by Davis’ office.
“We improve the goal of the SNAP program for work-capable adults,” Rep. Davis said. “Now it’s not only about helping work-capable adults purchase groceries, the bill is about helping work-capable adults climb out of poverty. This bill invests historic amounts in our state E&T programs and helps minimize the ‘cliff effect,’ which prevents many on assistance from getting ahead.”
Rep. Bacon, who also serves on the House Agriculture Committee, agreed that providing skills training for SNAP recipients will help them compete for jobs in a growing economy, adding, “Employers throughout the Omaha area tell me it is difficult to find workers with the right training for positions they need filled. The Farm Bill helps meet this need.”
The Farm Bill was introduced by committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX) on April 12. The legislation would also advance rural development initiatives like broadband deployment, strengthen investments in the $140 billion U.S. agricultural export market, and streamline the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to promote working lands conservation, according to the House Republican Conference.
Rep. Noem applauded the Farm Bill for providing “a necessary safety net, not only for our farmers and ranchers, but for our food supply.” Rep. Noem successfully included a measure in the 2018 Farm Bill directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to focus on crop insurance data rather than unreliable National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) data to strengthen commodities programs.
“With strong crop insurance and livestock disaster programs along with food stamp reforms, this legislation builds on the success of the historic tax cuts offered to farmers, ranchers and consumers,” Rep. Noem said. “I am proud of the months-long effort that has produced this legislation, and I look forward to helping usher this bill through the House in the weeks to come.”
Rep. Noem also worked on provisions in the Farm Bill that would increase Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage to 29 million acres while capping rental rates, and to modernize the wetlands determination process so producers can’t qualify for exemptions prior to a ruling on conservation compliance.
Rep. Bacon, meanwhile, said he voted for the Farm Bill because “it provides our farmers and ranchers with the resources they need to continue expanding our nation’s ag economy.”
He said the bill included a number of his priorities, specifically support for the Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank, which provides mandatory funding for the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program. “Further, affordable crop insurance was maintained providing a safety net for our farmers. I was also pleased to see the appropriate emphasis put on trade, food aid and research in the bill,” he said.
Rep. McMorris Rodgers praised the bill for including her priorities for farmers and ranchers, namely protecting crop insurance, increasing market development abroad through trade and supporting agricultural research, including work being done at Washington State University in her home district.
“I’m proud to say that my priorities are reflected in this bill so that our farmers in Eastern Washington can continue to provide food security to families everywhere,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers, who also serves as chair of the House Republican Conference.
A bill introduced by Rep. Davis on Feb. 20 was included in the Farm Bill to advance agriculture research, noted the congressman’s office. The Agricultural Research Advisory Board Improvement Act, H.R. 5071, would strengthen the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education and Economics Advisory Board and help the U.S. Department of Agriculture focus on agriculture’s top priorities.
Rep. Davis also introduced a successful amendment ensuring that farmers taking part in crop insurance plans can continue to use crop insurance tools like Market Protection Plans. He also led a successful amendment to protect the role of the National Organic Standards Board in determining which substances are prohibited for organic farming and handling.