Washington, D.C.—Congress has passed an $867 million farm bill with bipartisan support. The Senate passed the bill with an 87 to 13 vote; the House of Representatives followed the next day, approving the legislation with a vote of 386-47, according to a report in the Washington Post. The bill now heads to the desk of President Trump, who is expected to sign the bill into law.
While it took months to gather the support necessary, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports, removal of the work requirement for food stamp recipients got Democrats on board, while maintaining Republican support.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Congressional negotiators faced increasing pressure from farmers and ranchers, who are struggling due to the trade war with China.
The bill will expand crop insurance coverage to new crops, including barley and hops, and legalize industrial hemp, according to the WSJ.
The Tribune reported that the bill permanently secures funding for a program that funds and promotes local farmers markets, and preserves the Conservation Stewardship Program, which pays farmers to strengthen conservation efforts on their farms.
Just prior to the approval from Congress, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) issued a press release applauding the 2018 Farm Bill conference committee for another part of what the bill does: It establishes permanent funding for organic research and for improving the oversight of global organic trade. It earmarks $50 million in annual funding for the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) program by 2023, which is more than double the current funding level.
The bill provides funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, the OTA stated, which will help it keep pace with industry growth and carry out compliance and enforcement actions in the U.S. and abroad. It invests in technology and access to data to improve tracking of international organic trade, and requires measures that will strengthen the integrity of the global organic supply chain.
It also, according to the press release, provides funding for the organic certification cost-share program that helps small and beginning farmers to transition to organic by relieving some of the costs associated with annual organic certification fees.
Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the OTA, said, “Our organic champions—whether they are members of the Organic Trade Association or members of Congress—have worked tirelessly to make this Farm Bill a reality. This policy victory reflects extensive feedback from organic stakeholders as we established our organic priorities, engagement by our members in farm bill listening sessions, testifying at Congressional hearings, and meeting with lawmakers. Our members were unrelenting in their efforts, and their hard work paid off.”