Many industry organizations, including the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) and Organic Farmers Association, expressed approval at the completion of the most recent US farm bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.
The $867 billion bill, which drew bipartisan approval, supports government funding for a variety of programs related to organic farming, agricultural research programs, improving animal health and welfare and expanding trade to name a few.
"This year, our leaders in Congress accomplished a monumental task – they put aside the partisan bickering that so many associate with politics today to compromise on tough issues and reach agreement on a farm bill that will benefit millions of Americans and improve our agricultural communities nationwide,” said Joel G. Newman, president and CEO of AFIA. “We thank the House and Senate agriculture committee members and those on the farm bill conference committee for their unwavering commitment to shepherding this legislation through and encourage President Donald Trump to quickly sign it into law.”
The AFIA was especially supportive of provisions expanding market access for agricultural trade and funding research on animal health, disease preparedness and other research programs.
The NGFA had mixed feelings on the bill’s expansion of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) from 24 million to 27 million acres. With this expansion, farmers agree to preserve environmentally sensitive land by planting species to improve the quality of the land rather than using it for agricultural production.
“Too much productive farmland currently is enrolled in CRP, and reducing rental rates should help refocus the program on truly highly erodible and environmentally sensitive land,” said Randy Gordon, president and CEO of NGFA. Despite the NGFA’s stance against the expansion, Gordon did express approval of the compromise made in the bill, given some groups had argued to increase the CRP cap to 40 million acres.
“On balance, NGFA believes the conservation provisions in the compromise farm bill will help keep good quality land in production that can be farmed sustainably using prudent and sustainable conservation practices,” said Gordon.
Permanent government funding for animal research programs merited support from the AVMA. Members of the organization issued a statement staying, “…one of our greatest priorities must be to lessen the impact of devastating animal diseases with a one-of-a-kind program that will strengthen our ability to rapidly identify and respond to them. We are pleased that the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Report recognizes this need and provides mandatory funding for research into animal health and diseases as well as measures to help the animal agriculture industry act quickly when concerns are identified.”
Other promises of government funding for organic agriculture drew support from the Organic Farmers Association, which lobbied for funding to organic certification cost-share programs, research and data collection, and an improved system for tracking imports.
“Organic farming is at a critical junction,” said Dave Colson, president of the Organic Farmers Association. “American commodity farmers need support to diversify their production and enter new markets, like organic, and the domestic organic market needs more supply. This farm bill will help to enhance USDA’s enforcement of the organic label so that all producers are farming within consistent and fair standards. It will also support programs to grow our domestic production to meet the increasing demand for local, organic food. Organic Farmers Association looks forward to working with Congress and the USDA to support American organic farmers.”
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