House Ag Committee Releases Draft of 2018 Farm Bill Proposal

U.S. farm policy (the Farm Bill) is rewritten every 5 years. It's generated in the House of Representatives. ( MGN )

As expected, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway has released a Draft 2018 Farm Bill to be presented to the committee for mark-up the week of April 16, reports Joy Philippi, Inside Track columnist for Farm Journal’s PORK.

“The proposed Farm Bill language earmarks $150 million for a Foot and Mouth Disease vaccine bank for FY 2019,” Philippi says. “The National Pork Producers Council and other livestock groups requested the vaccine bank be annually funded at that level for the length of the five-year bill.”

FMD is an infectious viral disease that affects cloven-hooved animals, including cattle, pigs and sheep, explains the National Pork Producers Council. It is not a food safety or human health threat. Although the disease was last detected in the United States in 1929, it is endemic in many parts of the world.

“This is a great first step for the livestock industry,” says NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Johnstown, Ohio, and chairman of NPPC’s Farm Bill Policy Task Force. “Right now, we’re ill-prepared to deal with an FMD outbreak, which would be devastating for pork producers and other sectors of agriculture.”

Philippi says the 2018 draft language also authorizes $30 million for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), which provides diagnostic support to assist in managing diseases in the U.S. It also includes $70 million in block grants to states for disease prevention.

“For the other years of the 5-year Farm Bill, there’s $30 million in mandatory funding for state block grants and $20 million to be used at the Agriculture secretary’s discretion for the vaccine bank, the NAHLN and the states,” NPPC said in a news release.

NPPC is urging lawmakers to provide annual funding of $150 million for the vaccine bank, $70 million for state block grants and $30 million for the NAHLN over the life of the Farm Bill.

“Including FMD language in the House Farm Bill is a huge first step in addressing this gap in our disease prevention preparedness,” Heimerl says. “We are very grateful to the House Agriculture Committee for its efforts on this very important issue for livestock agriculture.”

Philippi points out that the chairman was forced to delay the release of the draft bill in March when a partisan dispute on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program erupted. 

Provisions for Young Farmers
The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) praised portions of the bill for maintaining programs critical to the success of young farmers, including maintaining beginning farmer training and land access programs, and restoring funding for farmland conservation easements -- all top farm bill priorities for NYFC, the group said in a news release.

“The House farm bill draft maintains key programs for young farmers, but partisan provisions threaten passage,” Philippi says.

The NYFC knows this is a concern.

“Over the past year, young farmers from across the country have shown up and spoken out to make sure Congress knows what they need from this farm bill,” says Lindsey Lusher Shute, NYFC Executive Director and Co-founder. “Clearly, some parts of that message were heard. This bill would uphold programs that are making a difference. But it’s also the expectation of farmers and the American people that both parties work together to pass a farm bill on time -- one that provides a safety net for farmers and consumers. This Committee has got to find a way to get that done.”

The House bill also includes funding for the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program, both of which help support exports markets for U.S. goods. The programs are consolidated as the International Market Development Program.