2018 Farm Bill Includes Southern Agriculture Priorities

2018 Farm Bill Includes Southern Agriculture Priorities

U.S. Senators David Perdue (R-GA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) praised Senate passage of the Farm Bill last week — which they say include many benefits for Georgia farmers and rural communities across the state.

According to Isakson, the bill will provide certainty and predictability to farmers and ranchers by improving crop insurance coverage and reauthorizing and improving farm and conservation programs. It also provides assistance to rural communities through expansion of broadband, opioid addiction treatment programs, and support for agriculture programs for veterans.

“Our farmers feed the world, and it’s essential that we do everything we can to anticipate challenges down the road and make sure our policies reflect the needs of our farmers for the long term,” said Isakson. “This important legislation provides numerous benefits for Georgia agriculture and for our rural communities, which are struggling with the opioid epidemic and with lack of access to modern-day essentials such as broadband. The 2018 Farm Bill will help our commodity producers when prices go down, expand trade assistance to ensure we remain competitive worldwide, and invest in the future of American agriculture.”

Calling the bill a ‘jobs bill,’ Perdue said “Agriculture is Georgia’s number one industry and a major reason why our state continues to be the best state in the country in which to do business. I’ve traveled across Georgia to listen to farmers and stakeholders in the agriculture industry. One thing is clear – this Farm Bill is a jobs bill. America’s food security is economic security. This bill saves more money than the last Farm Bill, cracks down on food stamp fraud, and preserves programs that have helped Georgia farmers weather low commodity markets.

“Unfortunately, an important provision was eliminated that would level the playing field for American textile mills,” Perdue added. “I’m also disappointed this bill includes a provision that will impose one-size-fits-all standards on farms, which runs counter to President Trump’s work to roll back overreaching regulations. I hope these concerns will be worked out before this bill reaches the President’s desk. Getting a bipartisan bill that balances the needs of every commodity and region is not an easy task. While this Farm Bill is not perfect, it will provide certainty to farmers in Georgia and around the country.”

Prior to passage of the U.S. Senate’s 2018 Farm Bill, Senator Perdue — a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee — spoke on the floor (click here to listen) to highlight some of the provisions important to Georgia. Some of these provisions include:

* Protects Peanut And Cotton Farmers: Protects critical programs for Georgia’s top two commodities by preserving existing safety nets.

* Helps Pecan Growers Compete: Provides for the assessment of imported pecans so that foreign producers pay the same assessment fee as U.S. pecan growers.

* Cracks Down On SNAP Fraud: Puts in place a verification system to prevent individuals from receiving payments in more than one state at the same time.

* Gives Flexibility To Land-Grant Schools: Allows land grant universities, like Fort Valley State, to carry over unused grant funds from year to year through the Carryover Equity Act.

* Advances Timber Industry: Establishes performance driven research and development programs for advancing new and innovative wood construction materials.

* Prioritizes Turf Grass Research: Adds Turf Grass Research to the list of high priority research at colleges and universities.

* Provides Relief For Peaches And Blueberries: Makes disaster funding available to peach and blueberry growers that were affected by recent frost damage under the Wildfire Hurricane Indemnity Program (WHIP).

Agriculture remains the state’s leading industry –contributing an annual $73 billion to Georgia’s economy. Also, Georgia is home to a larger variety of agricultural industries than almost any other state.

Poultry is the largest segment of Georgia agriculture with an economic impact of more than $25.5 billion annually to the Georgia economy. The Farm Bill would give new poultry farmers access to programs that would help them obtain and construct more conservation-friendly structures and farm equipment sooner. Participation in these programs will allow farmers to build more modern, safe, efficient and overall better farm infrastructure while also improving the quality of American farmland.

The specialty crop industry contributes $4.5 billion in total economic impact and provides over 31,000 jobs throughout the state. In 2017, a late-season freeze devastated Georgia blueberries and peaches, which are two of Georgia’s largest specialty crops. This USDA-declared disaster led to an 80 percent crop loss for peaches and a 70 percent crop loss for blueberries. An amendment included in the legislation that was offered by Isakson and Perdue allows for Georgia’s blueberry and peach farmers to access disaster relief following this severe weather event.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed its own version of the Farm Bill on June 21. The bill will now go to a conference committee to work out differences between the two bills.