Georgia Senators Tout Work On 2018 Farm Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-GA), member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, secured numerous provisions important to Georgia in the final negotiations of the 2018 Farm Bill.

“Getting a good Farm Bill across the finish line is critical for rural communities in Georgia and around the country,” said Senator Perdue. “This bill ensures America’s agriculture industry will continue to be a strategic industry for years to come. It preserves programs that have helped Georgia farmers deal with low commodity prices without increasing spending levels. Growing up working on my family’s farm, I learned at an early age that agriculture is not just a business – it's a way of life for many people across our country. This Farm Bill is an important investment in our farmers, ranchers, rural communities, and agribusinesses, as well as our national security.

“While this Farm Bill is a good start, it’s not perfect. It fails to make commonsense changes that would help put Americans receiving food assistance back to work. However, I am encouraged by the willingness of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue to deal with this issue. While I am disappointed that disaster relief funding for peach and blueberry growers was removed, I am encouraged that it will be addressed in the remaining funding bills. Ultimately, I am pleased that many Georgia priorities that were not included in the Senate bill were addressed in the final product. Balancing the needs of every commodity and region is not an easy task, and this Farm Bill will still provide much needed certainty to our farmers in Georgia and across the country.”

Senator Perdue secured the following provisions important to Georgia’s agriculture community:
  • Protects Peanut And Cotton Farmers: Protects critical programs for Georgia’s top two commodities by preserving existing safety nets.
  • Supports All Members Of Farming Operations: Eliminates a flawed provision that would have limited certain family members from being considered “actively engaged” in the farm operation based on management. This would have hurt many Georgia family farms ineligible for farm program participation.
  • Extends Support For Textiles:  Prolongs funding to ensure American textile mills can compete globally.
  • Helps Pecan Growers Compete: Provides for the assessment of imported pecans so that foreign producers pay the same assessment fee as U.S. pecan growers.
  • Cracks Down On SNAP Fraud: Puts in place a verification system to prevent individuals from receiving payments in more than one state at the same time.
  • Verifies SNAP Recipients: Initiates a pilot program to verify earned income at the time of certification and recertification.
  • Connects Georgia’s National Forests: Includes Senator Perdue’s Chattahoochee Oconee Land Adjustment Act, which gives U.S. Forest Service the tools they need to create a more contiguous National Forest.
  • Encourages Self-Sufficiency: Eliminates unnecessary subsidy on all rural development loan programs to allow programs to become self-sufficient and save U.S. Treasury approximately $50 million per year.
  • Establishes Agriculture Scholarships: Creates a scholarship program for students attending Historically Black Land-Grant Institutions who want to pursue a career in the agriculture industry.
  • Gives Flexibility To Land-Grant Schools: Allows land-grant universities, like Fort Valley State, to carry over unused grant funds from year to year through the Carryover Equity Act.
  • Advances Timber Industry: Establishes performance driven research and development programs for advancing new and innovative wood construction materials.
  • Prioritizes Turf Grass Research: Adds Turf Grass Research to the list of high priority research at colleges and universities.
  • Strengthens Rural Cybersecurity: Allows rural utilities to use certain electric loans and loan guarantees from U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund improvements to grid security and cybersecurity.
  • Requests Critical Data: Establishes a report with necessary data to protect human and animal health against possible threats posed by imported dogs.
  • Supports New Farmers: Allows Farm Service Agency, which loans to disadvantaged and new farmers, to increase its loan authority during years when the demand for FSA loans unexpectedly exceeds its cap.
  • Adds Cushions Of Credit: Balances the needs of taxpayers and electric cooperatives by ensuring that rates continue to stay competitive. The Farm Bill gradually phases out this program to provide savings.

Senator Johnny Isakson later praised the Senate’s final passage of the Farm Bill.  “As the senior senator from the state of Georgia where agriculture is our leading industry, I am proud to support the 2018 Farm Bill to help our farmers today and in the long term,” said Isakson. “Our nation’s farmers face near-constant uncertainty in their day-to-day operations as they work to feed the world. This bill anticipates future challenges and helps ensure that our policies reflect the needs of our farmers.

“I also appreciate each member of the House and Senate negotiating teams who hammered out the details in the final legislation, including Georgia’s U.S. Representatives Rick Allen, R-Ga.-12, Austin Scott, R-Ga.-08, and David Scott, D-Ga.-13.”

At Isakson’s urging, many safety net programs were maintained to protect cotton farmers in the 2018 Farm Bill. Isakson sponsored an amendment included in the legislation to extend funding for an important program that helps modernize and protect U.S. textile factories while also promoting the use of domestic-produced cotton. The program is now fully funded.   

The majority of cotton produced in Georgia is exported to other countries. Therefore, the industry is greatly dependent on open trade relationships with key markets.

Trade promotion programs are fully funded in the legislation, and several major trade and assistance programs were consolidated to streamline operations.

The legislation also encourages conservation by the agriculture community. The Conservation Stewardship Program remains in place, and funding was increased for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which incentivizes and contributes to smart conservation practices on farms.

The specialty crop industry contributes $4.5 billion in total economic impact in Georgia and provides over 31,000 jobs throughout the state. The legislation prioritizes research and development of additional risk management policies for specialty crops like peaches and pecans.

Georgia is consistently ranked as the top forestry state in the nation, and it tops every other state in the nation in terms of pure volume of timber harvested. The 2018 Farm Bill also includes key provisions from the Timber Innovation Act, which Isakson cosponsored, providing funds for research and development of wood-building construction as well as wood innovation grants. Additionally in Georgia, the legislation included the Chattahoochee Oconee Land Adjustment Act, which was cosponsored by Isakson and gives U.S. Forest Service the tools they need to better steward North Georgia’s only national forest, improve recreational opportunities and save taxpayer dollars.

The bill also helps ensure safety for farm animals and the food supply through funding of the National Animal Disease Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Program and establishes the new National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank.