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Senate Ag Panel Passes its Version of Farm Bill
USAgNet - 06/14/2018

The Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday passed its version of the federal farm bill by a 20-1 vote and overcame an attempt to tighten subsidy payments to farmers. The draft farm bill, officially known as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, contains more than 1,000 pages and covers everything from farm subsidies and food stamps to trade and rural development policy. Farmer assistance includes commodity payment programs, as well as subsidized crop insurance.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, cast the sole "no" vote, because his amendment to limit subsidy payments wasn't added to the proposed bill. Grassley wants to tighten the federal payments to focus on family-size farm operations.

The House failed to pass a farm bill last month due to an immigration squabble among Republicans.

McConnell also made a case during Wednesday's Senate Agriculture Committee meeting for supporting his hemp legalization legislation. McConnell said farmers in his home state of Kentucky and across the nation are interested in an industrial hemp industry.

The bill, which is expected to be voted on the by the full Senate before the July Fourth recess.

Other provisions included in the legislation include:

** Full funding for the Market Access Program ($200 million/year) and the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program ($9 million/year);

** $80 million in annual funding for all specialty crops under the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, giving priority for mechanization projects;

** $25 million annually for citrus greening research through the Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund;

** $4 million annually for a new research initiative focusing on urban agriculture;

** Reauthorization of the Office of Pest Management Policy;

** Full $85 million per year in funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program with $5 million set aside for multi-state programs to be administered through the Agricultural Marketing Service;

** The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is maintained as a fresh-only program;

** An increase to $50 million in mandatory funding (now $250 million over five years) for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program; and

** A new Harvesting Health Pilot Program that provides a "produce prescription" to those who may be suffering from diet-related conditions.

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