Farm Bill Heads to House-Senate Conference

A graphic of the farm bill.
( Multimedia Graphic Network, Inc. )

The 2018 Farm Bill will be hammered out in a House-Senate conference committee, where lawmakers must reconcile differences between the lower chamber measure approved two weeks ago and the upper chamber one passed last week.

Both bills include language establishing a vaccine bank to address an outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD). The House bill calls for first-year mandatory funding of $150 million for the vaccine bank, $70 million in block grants to the states for disease prevention and $30 million for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), which provides diagnostic support to assist in managing diseases; for years two through five, it includes $30 million for NAHLN and $20 million – to be used at the Agriculture secretary’s discretion – for the states and the vaccine bank.

The Senate bill includes funding only for the NAHLN. The National Pork Producers Council has been urging lawmakers to include full funding – $250 million – for each year of the next five-year agricultural blueprint. Another difference between the measures: The House bill includes the NPPC-backed provision that would prohibit states from regulating agricultural practices outside their borders; the Senate bill doesn’t.

Both Farm Bills do include funding for the NPPC-supported Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program, which help support export markets for U.S. goods. The programs are consolidated as the International Market Development Program.

During the previous week’s Senate debate on the Farm Bill, lawmakers defeated an amendment that would have severely restricted how commodity checkoff programs, including the Pork Checkoff, could use their money. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., indicated they want work on a final Farm Bill to begin soon. The current one expires Sept. 30.

 

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