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Senate Ag Leaders Find Common Ground in Bipartisan Farm Bill
Kansas Ag Connection - 06/11/2018

U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., released the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. The Committee will meet to consider the legislation at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time on June 13. Click here to watch live.

"When Ranking Member Stabenow and I started this journey in Manhattan, Kan., last year, we made a commitment to make tough choices and produce a good, bipartisan Farm Bill" said Chairman Roberts. "I'm pleased that today marks a big step in the process to get a Farm Bill reauthorized on time."

"Whether it's low prices, over burdensome regulations, or unpredictable trade markets, it's no secret that farmers and ranchers are struggling. That's why we need a Farm Bill that works for all producers across all regions. Simply put, our producers need predictability -- and that's just what our bill provides."

"From day one, Chairman Roberts and I agreed we would craft a bipartisan bill that works for farmers, families, and rural communities," said Ranking Member Stabenow. "The 2018 bipartisan Senate Farm Bill goes above and beyond to provide certainty for rural America and our diverse agricultural economy in Michigan and throughout the country."

"From revitalizing small towns, to promoting good stewardship of our land and water, to expanding local food economies, this Farm Bill is a major bipartisan victory."

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 provides certainty and predictability for producers across all regions, as well as those in need of assistance, by:

Providing Certainty for Farmers, Ranchers, and Growers

- Preserving and strengthening crop insurance and other risk management tools for commodity, dairy, livestock, and other producers

- Providing flexibility for producers during times of natural disasters

- Continuing and strengthening export and trade-related programs

- Supporting agriculture research and encouraging research partnerships that make farmers more productive and profitable

Strengthening Integrity and Food Access for Families

- Strengthening the integrity of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

- Building on successful public-private partnerships and job training to improve SNAP participants' path to sustainable employment

- Protecting food assistance for families and expanding access to healthy foods

- Reducing burdensome paperwork for seniors in need of assistance

Strengthening Voluntary Conservation and Forest Management

- Investing in voluntary conservation on working lands and expanding regional partnerships that leverage private funds to address natural resource concerns and improve water quality

- Providing forest management reforms to federal land managers and protecting against wildfires

- Securing opportunities for outdoor recreation by adding 1 million new acres to the Conservation Reserve Program and strengthening voluntary public access

Investing in Rural America

- Connecting rural America by expanding high-speed internet

- Fighting the opioid epidemic with prevention and treatment efforts

- Investing in water infrastructure for rural communities

- Preserving renewable energy investments that lower utility bills and support energy installation jobs

Growing the Diversity of the American Agricultural Economy

- Supporting farmer veterans and new farmers beginning careers in agriculture

- Strengthening local food economies that enable farmers to sell their products to their neighbors

- Growing emerging opportunities in organic production and urban agriculture

- Bolstering biodefense preparedness efforts to protect United States agriculture and food.

Meanwhile, Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer, M.D. expressed his support for Senate Agriculture Committee's bipartisan farm bill upon its release.

"We appreciate the leadership of Senator Pat Roberts in developing a farm bill that provides predictability and certainty to the farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses of Kansas," said the Governor. "I am particularly glad to see so many of the provisions made across many of the titles that will be beneficial to Kansas agriculture."

Support for enhanced and strong risk management tools are critical parts of the farm bill. A new dairy risk management program is offered, and a proposal to develop insurance policies for limited irrigation, irrigated sorghum and irrigation efficiencies reflects the efforts being made in Kansas to prioritize water conservation. In addition, the acreage cap on Conservation Reserve Program acres has been increased to 25 million acres, and the Senate draft proposes to expand the use of haying and grazing during a state of emergency upon a governor's emergency declaration.

Funding for trade promotion, development and assistance is included through several programs, and funding has been earmarked for research in many areas, including crop health, specialty crops and veterinary services. "Increased investment in research and trade is critical to growing agriculture," said Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Jackie McClaskey. "Funding for specific research initiatives like biosecurity preparedness, animal health research and veterinary services will directly benefit Kansas agriculture. When we see the farm bill making it a priority to recruit young people to veterinary medicine and also fund veterinary services for food animal practices, it is clear the committee understands veterinary service needs in rural communities."

As NBAF construction continues in Kansas, the Senate farm bill will elevate the prominence of homeland security within USDA as the agency prepares for management of NBAF. This strategic move further signifies that NBAF, as well as food and agriculture defense, are top priorities. Foreign animal disease and emergency preparedness is key to the Kansas livestock industry, and the creation of a National Animal Disease Preparedness, Response and Recovery Program and a National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank are critical to protecting not only the Kansas livestock industry but the state's economy.

"From the first Farm Bill hearing here in Kansas in February 2017, it has been clear that Senator Roberts and members of the Senate Agriculture Committee have listened to what agriculture in Kansas and across the U.S. needs from this farm bill," said Governor Colyer. "The Senate bill released today reflects the commitment to addressing those needs."

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