The 2018 Farm Bill process is moving along on an aggressive timeline that provides the opportunity for completing a bill prior to September 30, 2018 when the current one expires. Both the House and Senate have passed their versions of a new Farm Bill. A conference committee must now resolve discrepancies between the two bills and present a compromise for approval by both bodies and the president’s signature.
The House and Senate-passed versions reflect the different political environments in the respective chambers. The House bill moved forward exclusively with Republican votes and was written largely to appeal to their internal caucus dynamics. It failed on the House floor initially, and then passed by a narrow 213-211 vote. The Senate version was a product of a bipartisan process and passed by an overwhelming vote of 86-11. Overall both bills contain beneficial provisions for the potato industry.
The House bill includes substantial regulatory reforms. Those include a reauthorization of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) that sets the funding for approving and re-registering vital pesticides. Additionally, it includes a clarification of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting issue that has plagued pesticide applicators for nearly a decade.
The Senate bill increases the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) funding available to specialty crops from $55 million to $80 million annually. Additionally, it secures the funding for the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program that is heavily-utilized by the potato industry in addressing foreign trade barriers.
In all, there is strong reason for optimism that the goals and objectives of the potato industry and specialty crops in general will be met by the upcoming Farm Bill conference report. The stage was set for this opportunity due to work that began eighteen months ago, as the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA) developed its Farm Bill priorities for the fruit and vegetable sector. The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance is co-chaired by John Keeling of the National Potato Council.
The four SCFBA co-chairs met in January 2017 and that meeting was followed by a seven-month long committee process that reviewed all parts of the Farm Bill relating to specialty crops and identified priorities. The potato industry was broadly represented on a number of those individual committees. That process resulted in the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA) reporting key priorities for a new Farm Bill that include:
- Keeping the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program operating at its full authorized level beyond September 30th, 2018.
- Ensuring that the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) makes $80 million in research funding available to all specialty crops annually.
- Enhancing the APHIS Pest & Disease Programs to ensure they keep pace with current and future threats.
- Strengthening our export promotion programs to keep pace with international competitors
- Maintains specialty crop block grant funding
As part of the Senate’s year-long review of Farm Bill programs, NPC member Eric Halverson testified before the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee in July 2017. The focus of his testimony was on the importance of the export promotion programs that are authorized and funded under the Farm Bill.
Updated July 2018