Iowa political reaction to final passage of Farm Bill

All four Iowans voted yes as the U.S. House sent a new five-year Farm Bill to President Donald Trump on December 12. A day after passing the U.S. Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, the conference committee agreement sailed through the lower chamber by 369 votes to 47 (roll call).

Farm Bills have typically received strong support from both parties, thanks to a grand bargain struck decades ago, putting food assistance and agriculture-related subsidies and programs in the same legislation. This year’s initial House bill was an exception, as Republicans tried to impose work requirements on Americans in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps. House and Senate negotiators wisely removed that language from the final version.

Senator Chuck Grassley was the only member of Iowa’s Congressional delegation to oppose the Farm Bill, citing the failure to cap subsidy payments to large farming operations.

Jeff Stein of the Washington Post wrote a good summary of the legislation’s key provisions. Of particular interest to some Iowa farmers: cultivation of industrial hemp will now be legal nationwide. That crop is well-suited to our climate. Fifth-generation Madison County farmer Ryan Marquardt wrote here about the potential for hemp in Iowa.

I’ve enclosed below statements about the Farm Bill from Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Republicans David Young (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04). Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) also voted for the legislation, but I haven’t seen any comment from his office or on his social media feeds.

While the Farm Bill’s passage was never in question, there was some drama in the House yesterday. Five Democrats shamefully joined Republicans to support a rule “that controversially included language blocking a vote on U.S. involvement in Yemen.” Matt Fuller and Akbar Shahid Ahmed reported for the Huffington Post,

The rule ― which set up consideration for the farm bill ― waived a War Powers Resolution–based measure that could have given Democrats a floor vote on ending U.S. assistance to the Saudi-led coalition blamed for thousands of deaths and widespread starvation in Yemen.

GOP leadership sneaked the Yemen provision into the farm bill rule on Tuesday night, enraging many Democrats and some Republicans critical of U.S. support for the Saudis.

December 12 press release from Representative Dave Loebsack:

With House Passage of Farm Bill, Loebsack-led Legislation Heads to President’s Desk

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack today praised the House passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which now heads to the President for his signature. This bipartisan legislation contains two pieces of legislation that Loebsack helped lead. After the President signs the bill, both the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Bill and the Supporting and Improving Rural EMS Needs (SIREN) Act of 2018 will become law. Portions of Loebsack’s legislation aimed at allowing farmers to update program yields for Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) as a way to boost their eligibility for support were also included in the final bill.

“Farmers across Iowa and the nation have been waiting for this new legislation since the last Farm Bill expired in October. This bill will help provide the stability farmers need and deserve to be able to plant crops, raise livestock, and make investments that create jobs with certainty,” said Loebsack. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure this legislation is fully implemented and provides the necessary support for our farmers, rural communities and economy.”

A December 11 statement from Loebsack provided more context:

Loebsack Precision Ag Legislation, Rural EMS & Broadband Funding Included in Farm Bill
Conference Report includes Rural Development broadband funding, Precision Agriculture Act and SIREN Act

Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement today after the final Farm Bill Conference report was made public. This legislation represents the final compromise between the House and Senate and is scheduled to be voted on later this week.

“I am pleased that the House and Senate were finally able to put aside the partisan games and produce a Farm Bill that will provide Iowa’s farmers and rural communities with the certainty that they need to be able to plan for the upcoming planting season,” said Loebsack. “I am especially pleased that this bill provides funding to build new broadband infrastructure to help expand access in rural areas. It also protects crop insurance that provides a safety net for beginning farmers against crop failures and natural disasters such as the droughts we’ve seen in Iowa the last few years.”

The 2018 Farm Bill contains two pieces of legislation that Loebsack has been championing, including the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act and the SIREN Act.

• The Precision Agriculture Act establishes a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) task force, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to evaluate the best ways to meet the broadband connectivity and technological needs of precision agriculture.
• Supporting and Improving Rural EMS Needs (SIREN) Act creates a $10 million grant program for EMS agencies in rural areas to help address issues they face, including personnel recruitment and retention, providing continuing education and preparedness training, purchasing updated equipment, maintaining adequate coverage during prolonged transport times, and obtaining qualified medical oversight

Additional highlights of the 2018 Farm Bill include:

Rural Development:
• Authorizes $350 million per year for new broadband infrastructure.
• Reauthorizes rural water and sewer infrastructure programs.

• Allows farmers to update program yields for Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage as a way to boost their eligibility for support.

• The bill continues to support a strong Energy title.
• The bill supports a strong Conservation Title, including maintaining Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and increasing Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage to 27 million acres over the course of the farm bill.
• $300 million in mandatory funding for new animal pest and disease prevention and response programs, including $30 million annually for a national animal vaccine bank.
• Maintains current SNAP benefits.

December 12 press release from Representative David Young:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Iowa Congressman David Young said the following after voting to pass H.R. 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act:

“After months of delays which have left our farmers and producers with uncertainty, we have finally voted to give them certainty to plan for the future. This legislation enhances conservation projects and continues a stable crop insurance program for those who need it.

“I’m thankful my provisions, the WATER Act and the STRESS Act were in the final bill. The WATER Act will help streamline conservation grant funding and create a publicly accessible conservation database so farmers and conservationists can see what practices work best on different types of soil. The STRESS Act will provide much needed mental health resources to agriculture workers who take their lives at a rate higher than workers in any other industry.

“As a co-founder of the Food Waste Caucus, I was proud to support the creation of a Food Loss and Waste Reduction Liaison at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assist in meeting the government’s goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030. Currently, 40 percent of our food is lost somewhere along the food supply chain while millions of Americans go hungry and we must do better to get food to those in need. This liaison is one step in a long road to reducing waste and feeding those who go hungry.”

Read more about Congressman Young’s WATER Act HERE.

Read more about Congressman Young’s STRESS Act HERE.

Read more about Congressman Young’s work as a co-founder of the Food Waste Caucus HERE.

December 12 statement from Representative-elect Cindy Axne, who defeated Young last month:

“Final passage of the Farm Bill is a win for Iowa farmers. This legislation will better support an industry that is not only an economic driver and job creator in our state, but the cultural bedrock here in Iowa. While our farmers should never have been used as leverage, I’m pleased that Congress was able to reach a compromise deal that will expand export opportunities, provide more certainty to farmers, protect crop insurance, and boost efforts to better support Iowa’s rural communities.

“During a time of dropping commodity prices and disruptions in markets overseas, I look forward to working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues on implementing this legislation to provide some much-needed certainty for Iowa farmers.”

December 12 press release from Representative Steve King:

Video- King: Farm Bill Contains “Good Things” for Iowa Agriculture

Cites Iowa State’s “Genome to Phenome” language; Full Funding for Trade Programs; FMD Vaccine Bank as key provisions in bill.

Washington, D.C.- Congressman Steve King, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, releases this video of remarks he delivered on the House floor this afternoon in support of the Farm Bill conference report. During his remarks, King specifically mentioned several of the important provisions he worked to insert into the legislation that will be of great benefit to producers in the 4th District.

“This Farm Bill provides predictability. We owe that to our producers.” (Full remarks: here).

Among the items King’s mentioned in his remarks as “good things” are the following items he worked to get included in the Farm Bill:

1) ARC Payments are now identified with the physical location of the farm;

2) $255,000,000 has been included for the Market Access Program and for Foreign Market Development, important programs which promote international trade;

3) The Farm Bill establishes a vaccine bank for Foot and Mouth Disease, and allows for the development and storage of GMO vaccines in the United States;

4) The Farm Bill increases the loan guarantee limits for young producers (Beginning Farmers) by substantial amounts;

5) The Farm Bill includes important “Genome to Phenome” research language which was a priority for Iowa State University.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the Farm Bill Conference Report today.

December 12 Iowa Democratic Party press release:

Iowa Democratic Party Statement on the Passage of the 2018 Farm Bill
Chair Troy Price Calls on Republicans to Hold Congressman King Accountable for Failure to Represent His Rural Constituents During Farm Bill Process.

The final version of the 2018 Farm Bill passed through Congress today with several changes that protect rural Iowans from GOP-led attacks on food assistance and small, family farms. Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price released the following statement in response:

“This Farm Bill is a victory for Iowa and for bipartisan cooperation. While no legislation is perfect, we applaud our lawmakers’ rejection of the attempt by extreme conservatives to cut benefits for hungry families, many of whom live in our rural communities here in Iowa – especially the two bipartisan victories Congressman Dave Loebsack brought home. We are also pleased that Congressman King’s attempt to rig our economy for big agri-business was soundly defeated in the final version of this bill.

On that note, it has never been more important for our family farmers and rural communities to have a voice in the future of agriculture, but the people of Iowa’s Fourth District are consistently let down by their Congressman. Despite serving one of the top agricultural districts in the country, Congressman King has thrown farmers and rural families under the bus time and time again in favor of his out-of-touch political games. Even setting aside his divisive and hateful rhetoric, Congressman King has shown himself both unwilling and incapable of performing the basic duties of his office. We urge our friends across the aisle to stiffen their spines and hold him accountable in a meaningful way.”

  • Neither party is telling the truth about the new Farm Bill...

    …which is that it continues our planetary ponzi scheme of sacrificing the future for present convenience. The conservation provisions are grossly, incredibly inadequate to address the soil, water, climate, and biodiversity realities that we are facing. The real “grand bargain” is the political agreement not to talk about that.

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