2018 Farm Bill Signed, Sealed and Delivered
As the year comes to an end, so does the long road for the 2018 Farm Bill as it has been officially signed into law by President Trump. The latest iteration of the legislation includes several big wins for the specialty crop industry, plus it represents a historic moment for industrial hemp.
The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA), which represents more than 120 specialty crop organizations across the U.S., praised passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 and pointed out several programs and funding included that should bolster the specialty crop industry over the next five years:
- Enhanced funding for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), allowing all specialty crops to compete for the full $80 million annually for the SCRI program
- An annual trust fund of $25 million annually to maintain resources for the citrus industry to fight citrus greening
- Full $9 million annual funding of the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops program, which encourages reduction of bureaucratic impediments to make the program more efficient in overcoming trade barriers
- Continued support for programs that combat invasive pests and diseases at $75 million annually, with the goal of enhancing its funding in five years by $7.5 million to fund the National Clean Plant Network
- Increased Food Insecurity Nutrition Initiative funding levels and continued support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- Continued strong funding of specialty crop block grants
- Improved access to foreign markets through increased funding for the Market Access Program of at least $200 million annually
- Strong language in SCRI, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, and the newly created Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority program focusing on mechanization as a priority
- Reforms to the National Organic Program operation
SCFBA’s three co-chairs: John Keeling, Executive President and CEO of the National Potato Council; Mike Stuart, CEO of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association; and Tom Nassif, President and CEO of Western Growers Association; each weighed in on the bill’s outcome.
“We are grateful to see such consistent, strong support of specialty crops in the farm bill,” Keeling stated. “The bipartisan support of lawmakers in Congress is appreciated by the entire industry. The programs included in the 2018 Farm Bill will help specialty crops compete in a global marketplace, develop research tools that improve the cultivation process, and contribute to a healthier America.”
“The passage of H.R. 2 is critically important to our producers and stakeholders,” Stuart remarked. “This bill is going to strengthen our industry by enhancing nutrition programs, continuing to support specialty crop block grants, combating invasive pest and diseases, supporting trade programs, and providing funding for research.”
“Specialty crops represent approximately $70 billion in farm receipts annually, impacting large and small, rural and urban communities – and the entire specialty crops industry relies on the certainty and support that only a five-year farm bill can provide,” Nassif added.
The United Fresh Produce Association also is showing its approval of the bill’s signing.
“The 2018 Farm Bill is a major victory for fresh produce,” said Robert Guenther, Senior VP of Public Policy for United Fresh, in a prepared news release. “Despite differences between the House and Senate, Congress has once again shown that when legislation is dealt with in a bipartisan manner, the American people will benefit. We would like to thank the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Agricultural Committee for their leadership in passing a Farm Bill that is good for both the fresh produce industry and consumers.”
The finalizing of the farm bill also includes a section that removes hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, placing full federal regulatory authority of the crop with USDA, and allowing state departments of agriculture to file hemp programs plans and regulate hemp cultivation per their state-specific programs.
The U.S. Hemp Roundtable, an industry association, is celebrating what it calls the end of hemp’s prohibition. “This should give comfort to federally regulated institutions — banks, merchant services, credit card companies, e-commerce sites, and advertising platforms — to engage in commerce with the hemp and hemp product industry,” stated Jonathan Miller, the association’s General Counsel, in a news release. “An exciting, emerging, multibillion-dollar hemp industry is now unleashed, providing economic opportunity to farmers and small businesses all across America.”