Farm Bill passes House, Alabama Delegation unanimous

Farm Bill passes House, Alabama Delegation unanimous

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to give final passage to the Farm Bill Wednesday, sending the more than $400 agriculture and nutrition legislation to President Trump’s desk. Trump has previously indicated he would sign the bill.

The House voted 369-47 to pass the legislation after the Senate approved it 87-13 on Tuesday. Each of Alabama’s seven Representatives voted to pass the legislation. Alabama’s two Senators also voted in favor of the legislation Tuesday.

The bill, which sets federal agricultural and food policy for five years, was negotiated in conference committee for months after the House and Senate passed different versions earlier this year. The result was a compromise that did not include the stricter food stamp work requirements House Republicans wanted, but did include stronger anti-fraud and duplication provisions.

Rep. Mike Rogers, who is Alabama’s lone member of the House Agriculture Committee, helped negotiate the long-sought compromise and said he was “proud to sign the Conference report this week after a lot of hard work.”

“This Farm Bill strengthens the farm safety net for Alabama’s farmers and producers and it provides five years of certainty. America’s farm economy is still struggling, and this bill will be a much-needed shot in the arm,” Rogers said.

Rep. Robert Aderholt, who chairs the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, also said he was proud to deliver another five-year Farm Bill, calling it “a vote for both farmers and consumers.”

“There is not a single person that farming does not impact. Farming Feeds (and clothes) Alabama and America,” Aderholt said.

The measure reauthorizes crop insurance and conservation programs and pays for trade programs, bioenergy production and organic farming research. It also reduces the cost for struggling dairy producers to sign up for support programs and legalizes the cultivation of industrial hemp.

The House and Senate also clashed over portions of the bill’s forestry and conservation sections.

Negotiations were complicated in recent weeks when the White House asked Congress to make changes to the forestry section in response to deadly wildfires in California, giving more authority to the Agriculture and Interior departments to clear forests and other public lands. The final text doesn’t significantly increase the agencies’ authority.

The bill maintains current limits on farm subsidies, but includes a House provision to expand the definition of family to include first cousins, nieces and nephews, making them eligible for payments under the program.

Among the many clauses in the bill, it includes provisions important to Alabama’s cotton and peanut farmers. The bill maintains access to crop insurance through reduced premium and waived fees. The bill also restores funding for trade promotion efforts in an attempt to keep pace with trading competitors around the world. Supporting access to broadband internet was another important provision in the bill, as well as helping equip and train the next generation of farmers.

Reps. Martha Roby and Bradley Byrne each represent agriculture-heavy districts and have been outspoken about these Farm Bill provisions for years.

“In Alabama’s Second District, agriculture is the largest employer,” Roby said. “The 2018 farm bill provides certainty to the American families who work every day to provide the food and fiber we depend on. I was proud to support this legislation on behalf of the farmers I represent, and I am eager to see President Trump sign it into law.”

“The 2018 Farm Bill will allow for improved crop protections and loan options for farmers, incentivize rural development, support animal disease prevention and management, and will continue our nation’s commitment to agriculture and farmers,” Byrne said.

“I am especially pleased to see the substantial resources provided to improve rural broadband access to communities. Providing Internet access to people in rural Alabama is absolutely critical to economic development and the success of these communities in the 21st Century.”

The Alabama Farmers Federation supported the bill and thanked each of Alabama’s lawmakers for supporting its passage. Federation President Jimmy Parnell said no farm bill is “perfect,” but this one addressed the concerns of the state’s producers.

“It gives farmers greater flexibility in choosing programs to fit their individual businesses and allows prices and yields to be adjusted based on global markets and production history. We appreciate Congress and the Trump administration getting a farm bill approved so farmers can have certainty going into next year,” Parnell said.

More detailed information on the Farm Bill is available via the House Agriculture Committee website. 

The Associated Press contributed to this reporting. 

Caroline Beck is a reporter based out of Montgomery. You can reach her on Twitter @CarolineBeckADN or through email at caroline@aldailynews.com.