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Views and Opinions: House passing its farm bill version draws wide opinions

It appears that almost every organization even remotely tied to farming was poised over the “send” button on June 21. As soon as word of the passage of the 2018 farm bill by the House of Representatives began to spread, my email inbox began to fill up with messages from numerous organizations giving me their thoughts on the event.

While our Washington, D.C., correspondent Jim Rutledge provides an overview of the bill’s passage on the front page of this issue, I thought I would share some of the emails I received, both for and against the bill.

Of course the USDA had a statement: “I applaud Chairman Conaway and the House Agriculture Committee for their diligence and hard work in passing their 2018 farm bill through the House of Representatives,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “American producers have greatly benefited from the policies of the Trump administration, including tax reforms and reductions in regulations; however, a farm bill is still critically important to give the agriculture community some much-needed reassurance.

“No doubt there is still much work to be done on this legislation in both chambers of Congress and the USDA stands ready to assist with whatever counsel lawmakers may request or require.”

While the vast majority of the emails I received provided various versions of “we support the actions of the House of Representatives” there were a few organizations that took the passage to task.

“Today, the House passed its deeply flawed farm bill, H.R. 2, which was widely criticized by farm and food advocates nationwide,” was the bold opening line from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “The bill passed today by the House is full of provisions that would severely undermine local and regional food economies, weaken or eliminate popular conservation programs and take food from the mouths of hungry Americans.

“NSAC remains committed to securing a bipartisan farm bill before the Sept. 30 deadline and will urge all members of the farm bill conference committee to come together to produce a bill that supports small and mid-scale family farms, closes loopholes that facilitate farm consolidation and concentration, advances stewardship and invests in farm-to-fork economies.”

On the pro side of the debate were emails from the National Corn Growers Assoc., National Cattlemen’s Beef Assoc., National Assoc. of Wheat Growers and National Pork Producers Council.

“Chief among the important provisions is language establishing and funding a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank,” wrote the NPPC.

The NCBA also wrote about FMD, “We are glad the House-based bill addresses a number of priorities for producers, including authorization and funding for a national vaccine bank that prioritizes foot-and-mouth disease prevention. The bill also strengthens conservation programs and improves USDA’s foreign market development activities.”

Many of the groups provided information about the items in the bill most important to their members. “The National Assoc. of Wheat Growers continues working to ensure that a final farm bill includes provisions that provide financial incentives for farmers to adopt conservation practices into their operations,” said Jimmie Musick, NAWG president.

“We also support continued reauthorization of the Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative and other important research programs which could lead to innovative technologies to help growers combat pests, disease and even drought.”

Kevin Skunes, president of the NCGA, wrote, “Today’s vote is a big step forward to seeing a new farm bill this year. The House farm bill maintains a robust crop insurance program, ensuring it continues to be a viable risk management tool for farmers across the country.”

A wide variety of organizations chimed in on the bill. The Independent Community Bankers of America wrote, “ICBA and the nation’s community bankers appreciate that the full House was able to pass the farm bill today. Such an outcome is necessary to ensure producers and their lenders have a degree of price protection and predictability for the next five years.

“Producers and other stakeholders in our rural communities need the safety net that a farm bill provides, given the sharp drop in net farm income in recent years and the uncertainties over trade issues.”

The Assoc. of Equipment Manufacturers wrote: “Sound agricultural policy promotes a strong farm economy and a strong U.S. manufacturing sector. This includes the 320,000 agricultural equipment manufacturing jobs across America.”

On the other side of the coin, Anna Johnson, senior policy associate with the Center for Rural Affairs, wrote, “This bill undercuts rural communities in numerous and serious ways. By passing this bill, the House of Representatives is demonstrating limited vision and investment in rural communities.

“The draft includes the elimination of the Conservation Stewardship Program and would cut funds for working lands conservation by nearly $5 billion over 10 years. The bill also would eliminate funding for important programs such as the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, the Value-added Producer Grant Program and the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program.”

What are your thoughts on the farm bill? I would love to hear from readers about how the farm bill would help or hurt your operation. Write to: Connie Swaim, P.O. Box 90, Knightstown, IN 46148 or email