On Friday, June 29, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill, 86-11, a week after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the bill, 213-211.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) developed the Senate bill. Below are responses from throughout the industry.
AmericanHort praised Senate Leadership as well as the Senate Agriculture Committee on Friday, with the overwhelming vote to pass the farm bill Thursday. The Senate voted 86-11 to pass their version of the farm bill, which will now initiate conference committee proceedings.
“Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sent a positive message to the horticulture industry — as well as many others who are impacted by this piece of legislation — that they want to deliver for our nation’s growers and researchers and urged their respective parties to vote yes,” said AmericanHort senior vice president Craig Regelbrugge. “Considering the current legislative environment, Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) did a masterful job in the development of this farm bill.”
“We urge the Senate and the House to go to conference quickly, work out legislative differences, and bring the final bill to a vote.”
While the House version of the farm bill was positive in many aspects for the horticulture industry, AmericanHort sees the Senate bill as more forcefully addressing concerns of the industry, centered on the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI). The Senate version contained additional funds for specialty crops in SCRI by eliminating the citrus industry research carveout, placing it in a separate trust fund. This allows for an additional $25 million for specialty crop industries, such as horticulture, to access.
An additional provision that AmericanHort recommends for inclusion in the final version is the requirement for the Secretary of Agriculture to implement a strategy to accelerate the development and use of mechanization in the production of specialty crops.
The horticulture industry is also appreciative of the fact that both House and Senate versions of the farm bill contained sustained funding for critical infrastructure programs such as the Plant Pests and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention, National Clean Plant Network, and the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
“Following the July 4th recess, we hope Congress quickly goes to conference to resolve legislative differences and that the 2018 Farm Bill goes to final vote soon after conference,” Regelbrugge said.
United Fresh Produce Association applauded the Senate’s passing the Farm Bill, which included numerous policy recommendations supported by the association. “Yesterday’s vote is a testament to the tenacity of Senators Roberts and Stabenow, and demonstrates that a bipartisan approach to important policy measures is the best way to make improvements to policies and programs the Fresh Produce industry relies on,” Tom Stenzel, president & CEO of United Fresh Produce Association, said Saturday.
“As the Farm Bill process moves towards the convening of a Conference Committee, we look forward to working with members in both houses, and on both sides of the aisle, to achieve a final bill that advances the interests of the Fresh Produce industry in the areas of research, trade, nutrition and other areas,” Stenzel added.
John Piotti, president and CEO of American Farmland Trust, provided the following statement: “American Farmland Trust applauds the passage of the Senate Farm bill today and commends Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow for this bipartisan and expedient step towards a 2018 Farm Bill. AFT looks forward to a similar approach by the conferees for a timely bill that provides certainty for American farmers and ranchers and much-needed funds to protect the land they steward.”
Groups outside the produce industry also commented on the Senate's passing its version of the bill.
The final bill should include policies and programs with strong track records of success, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). “We look to the conference committee to ensure that [the] final farm bill maintains the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and includes other measures proven to stimulate regional economies, provide farmers the tools they need to protect soil and water quality, and ensure all families can put food on the table,” said Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at UCS.
Meanwhile, Brent Van Dyke, president of the National Association of Conservation Districts, applauded Roberts and Stabenow for their bipartisanship, adding that the NACD is ready to work with legislators to “advance locally-led conservation.” “With the Senate's passage, Congress is nearing towards the final steps to reauthorize the farm bill," Van Dyke said.