Home  
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Log in or create a new MyGrange account
Keyword / Search: 
 
 
 
 

 


 
 
Around The Grange
View from the Hill: Farm Bill Legislation Becomes Law
 

By Burton Ehler, National Grange Legislative Director

  FEBRUARY 11, 2019 --

FARM BILL

Legislation Becomes Law

In December, the new farm bill passed with huge bipartisan majorities in the Senate (87-13) and House (369-47). Following its passage, National Grange President Betsy Huber issued the following statement:

“America’s farmers, ranchers and landowners have a reasonable, balanced, common-sense $867 billion farm bill headed to the President’s desk today. The bipartisan legislation passed overwhelmingly in the Senate by a vote of 87-13 and in the House by 369-47. The package now gives much needed multi-year certainty to commodity programs, crop insurance, conservation, farm loans, beginning farmers and ranchers, SNAP assistance, nutrition programs, foreign markets promotion and more. It also establishes a new Foot and Mouth Disease vaccine bank.

“I want to thank Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Minority member Debbie Stabenow for their bipartisan leadership to get this done. Both have proven themselves worthy to have named National Grange Champions of Rural America (Stabenow in 2017 and Roberts in 2018)”.

 

Trade

USDA’s four trade promotion programs were funded at $251.5 million per year.

 

Commodity Programs

Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage are similar to the 2014 farm bill with several enhancements on reference prices and yield data

Loan rates are increased substantially

The new Dairy Margin Coverage Program builds on the recent Margin Protection Program passed in February by reducing premiums on the first 5 million pounds of production (about 240 cows) and raises the top margin coverage from $8 per hundredweight to $9.50

Does not set payment limits on eligibility for commodity program payments

 

Conservation

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program has increased funding; the Conservation Stewardship Program has reduced funding but is preserved as a standalone program. Conservation Reserve Program enrollment is increased from 24 million acres to 27 million acres.

The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is now a standalone with its own rules separate from other conservation programs from which it was previously funded.

 

Nutrition

Additional work requirements and tightened eligibility requirements were omitted from the final Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provision; governors will be required to approve state agency applications to USDA for waivers from the existing work requirements.

The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program is given permanent funding and is renamed the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program for the former USDA Undersecretary and Grange member from Massachusetts.

 

Credit

Farm loan limits on operating and ownership loans are increased ($1.75 million on guaranteed operating and ownership loans; $600,000 on direct ownership loans; direct operating loans are raised to $400,000).

 

Rural Development

Provides permanent authority and rules for the $600 million rural broadband grant and loan program created by the fiscal 2018 spending bill.

Prioritizes funding for projects to combat opioid addiction and authorizes a 33 percent increase in grants under the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program.

 

Research

Funding is increased for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

 

Forestry

Renews the categorical exclusion that allows diseased and insect infested trees to be removed from government forests.

 

Energy

Renews the authorization but reduces the funding for bioenergy programs.

 

Horticulture

Legalizes the production of industrial hemp

Creates a new Local Agriculture Market Program

Creates a new Urban, Indoor and Other Emerging Agricultural Production Research, Education and Extension Initiative

Maintains funding for Specialty Crop Block Grants

Authorizes USDA to require additional documentation for shipments from abroad under the National Organic Program.

 

Crop Insurance

Hemp is made eligible for crop insurance.

Discounts for beginning farmers and ranchers are extended to 10 years from the current 5 years under Whole

Farm Revenue Protection

New policies will be researched by USDA to cover crops affected by hurricanes and tropical storms

 

Miscellaneous

Creates and funds a new Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program that includes a new Foot and Mouth Disease vaccine bank

Creates a new Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program

Requires the President to nominate an undersecretary for rural development

 

WATERS OF THE UNITED STATES

In early December, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers released their highly anticipated proposal to replace the definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) which determines the scope of waters and wetlands that fall under the federal Clean Water Act. The proposal would eliminate ephemeral streams (those created by rainfall and snowmelt) from federal jurisdiction, tighten guidelines for when other streams and wetlands are considered for federal protection, exclude ditches unless they contribute flow to a “waters of the U.S”, exclude farm ponds, log cleaning ponds and cooling ponds, and require wetlands to be physically connected to other jurisdictional waters to fall within the scope of WOTUS. Farmers, ranchers, landowners, builders, and other businesses welcomed the new definition while several conservation and environmental groups were critical. The proposed rule is subject to a 60-day comment period. If the rule becomes final, it is almost certain to face legal challenges.

 

DISCLOSURE OF BIOENGINEERED FOOD

USDA has announced the Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard to require food manufacturers, importers, and certain retailers to identify foods that are or may be bioengineered. The standard defines bioengineered foods as those that contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through lab techniques and cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature.

 

SNAP CHANGES PROPOSED

Late in December, USDA issued a proposed rule to significantly amend the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the first time in 22 years. The proposed change would prevent states from getting waivers from work and job training requirements unless their unemployment rate is at least 7 percent. The proposed rule is subject to a 60-day public comment period and will likely face legal challenges if enacted.

 

ANTIBIOTIC USE IN LIVESTOCK FALLS BY A THIRD

Usage of medically important antibiotics in food production has fallen sharply according to the Food and Drug Administration. Antimicrobials important to human health are no longer allowed to be used for growth promotion purposes in livestock and may only be obtained through a veterinarian’s order to treat sick animals.

 

HEALTH CARE

Medical Device Tax

The National Grange joined a large group of patient advocates to call for permanent repeal of the medical device tax in a letter to Senate and House leadership. New medical technology discoveries are critical to diagnosing and treating disease and conditions that significantly impact patients’ lives. Since the tax is levied on revenues, not profits, it is particularly challenging for smaller companies which make up 80 percent of the industry and are the source of much innovation.

 

Protect Medicare Part D

Because Part D is so important to Grange members, the National Grange joined other patient groups in a letter to Congress opposing any proposal that would repeal the program’s non-interference clause. The clause states that manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers, and insurance companies must negotiate directly to reach the lowest possible prices for prescription medications.

 

Medicare Part B Demonstration Questioned

The National Grange has urged Senate and House leaders to question a potentially harmful Medicare Part B demonstration by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The proposed CMS International Pricing Index demonstration would import foreign-based price controls regardless of value or innovation and interjects new middlemen between physicians and patients with complex life-threatening conditions.

 

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Rural Veterans Need the Lifeline Program

The National Grange filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission to support access to affordable rural broadband for the 24 percent of America’s veterans who live in rural America. The filing urged the FCC to preserve no-cost Lifeline offerings, implement the National Verifier in a common sense, straight-forward way, and reexamine the minimum standard regulations that could lead to the elimination of no-cost Lifeline services.

 

Binding Arbitration for Comcast/NBCUniversal

The National Grange wrote the chairmen and ranking minority members of the House Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law regarding the expiring terms of the Comcast/NBCU merger. The Grange suggested that binding arbitration be required to settle program access disputes, that sensible safeguards are necessary to protect consumer prices and assess to programming, and that protections for independent programmers be established.

 

Raising the Bar for Rural Broadband 

The USDA will now require its rural broadband projects to provide access speeds of at least 25 megabits per second upload and 3 megabits per second download as mandated in the new farm bill. Funded projects must serve communities of less than 20,000 people with no broadband service or where service is slower than 10/I Mbps. Projects will compete for $600 million provided by Congress earlier this year.

FARM BILL

Legislation Becomes Law

In December, the new farm bill passed with huge bipartisan majorities in the Senate (87-13) and House (369-47). Following its passage, National Grange President Betsy Huber issued the following statement:

“America’s farmers, ranchers and landowners have a reasonable, balanced, common-sense $867 billion farm bill headed to the President’s desk today. The bipartisan legislation passed overwhelmingly in the Senate by a vote of 87-13 and in the House by 369-47. The package now gives much needed multi-year certainty to commodity programs, crop insurance, conservation, farm loans, beginning farmers and ranchers, SNAP assistance, nutrition programs, foreign markets promotion and more. It also establishes a new Foot and Mouth Disease vaccine bank.

“I want to thank Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Minority member Debbie Stabenow for their bipartisan leadership to get this done. Both have proven themselves worthy to have named National Grange Champions of Rural America (Stabenow in 2017 and Roberts in 2018)”.

 

Trade

USDA’s four trade promotion programs were funded at $251.5 million per year.

 

Commodity Programs

Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage are similar to the 2014 farm bill with several enhancements on reference prices and yield data

Loan rates are increased substantially

The new Dairy Margin Coverage Program builds on the recent Margin Protection Program passed in February by reducing premiums on the first 5 million pounds of production (about 240 cows) and raises the top margin coverage from $8 per hundredweight to $9.50

Does not set payment limits on eligibility for commodity program payments

 

Conservation

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program has increased funding; the Conservation Stewardship Program has reduced funding but is preserved as a standalone program. Conservation Reserve Program enrollment is increased from 24 million acres to 27 million acres.

The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is now a standalone with its own rules separate from other conservation programs from which it was previously funded.

 

Nutrition

Additional work requirements and tightened eligibility requirements were omitted from the final Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provision; governors will be required to approve state agency applications to USDA for waivers from the existing work requirements.

The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program is given permanent funding and is renamed the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program for the former USDA Undersecretary and Grange member from Massachusetts.

 

Credit

Farm loan limits on operating and ownership loans are increased ($1.75 million on guaranteed operating and ownership loans; $600,000 on direct ownership loans; direct operating loans are raised to $400,000).

 

Rural Development

Provides permanent authority and rules for the $600 million rural broadband grant and loan program created by the fiscal 2018 spending bill.

Prioritizes funding for projects to combat opioid addiction and authorizes a 33 percent increase in grants under the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program.

 

Research

Funding is increased for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

 

Forestry

Renews the categorical exclusion that allows diseased and insect infested trees to be removed from government forests.

 

Energy

Renews the authorization but reduces the funding for bioenergy programs.

 

Horticulture

Legalizes the production of industrial hemp

Creates a new Local Agriculture Market Program

Creates a new Urban, Indoor and Other Emerging Agricultural Production Research, Education and Extension Initiative

Maintains funding for Specialty Crop Block Grants

Authorizes USDA to require additional documentation for shipments from abroad under the National Organic Program.

 

Crop Insurance

Hemp is made eligible for crop insurance.

Discounts for beginning farmers and ranchers are extended to 10 years from the current 5 years under Whole

Farm Revenue Protection

New policies will be researched by USDA to cover crops affected by hurricanes and tropical storms

 

Miscellaneous

Creates and funds a new Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program that includes a new Foot and Mouth Disease vaccine bank

Creates a new Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program

Requires the President to nominate an undersecretary for rural development

 

WATERS OF THE UNITED STATES

In early December, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers released their highly anticipated proposal to replace the definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) which determines the scope of waters and wetlands that fall under the federal Clean Water Act. The proposal would eliminate ephemeral streams (those created by rainfall and snowmelt) from federal jurisdiction, tighten guidelines for when other streams and wetlands are considered for federal protection, exclude ditches unless they contribute flow to a “waters of the U.S”, exclude farm ponds, log cleaning ponds and cooling ponds, and require wetlands to be physically connected to other jurisdictional waters to fall within the scope of WOTUS. Farmers, ranchers, landowners, builders, and other businesses welcomed the new definition while several conservation and environmental groups were critical. The proposed rule is subject to a 60-day comment period. If the rule becomes final, it is almost certain to face legal challenges.

 

DISCLOSURE OF BIOENGINEERED FOOD

USDA has announced the Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard to require food manufacturers, importers, and certain retailers to identify foods that are or may be bioengineered. The standard defines bioengineered foods as those that contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through lab techniques and cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature.

 

SNAP CHANGES PROPOSED

Late in December, USDA issued a proposed rule to significantly amend the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the first time in 22 years. The proposed change would prevent states from getting waivers from work and job training requirements unless their unemployment rate is at least 7 percent. The proposed rule is subject to a 60-day public comment period and will likely face legal challenges if enacted.

 

ANTIBIOTIC USE IN LIVESTOCK FALLS BY A THIRD

Usage of medically important antibiotics in food production has fallen sharply according to the Food and Drug Administration. Antimicrobials important to human health are no longer allowed to be used for growth promotion purposes in livestock and may only be obtained through a veterinarian’s order to treat sick animals.

 

HEALTH CARE

Medical Device Tax

The National Grange joined a large group of patient advocates to call for permanent repeal of the medical device tax in a letter to Senate and House leadership. New medical technology discoveries are critical to diagnosing and treating disease and conditions that significantly impact patients’ lives. Since the tax is levied on revenues, not profits, it is particularly challenging for smaller companies which make up 80 percent of the industry and are the source of much innovation.

 

Protect Medicare Part D

Because Part D is so important to Grange members, the National Grange joined other patient groups in a letter to Congress opposing any proposal that would repeal the program’s non-interference clause. The clause states that manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers, and insurance companies must negotiate directly to reach the lowest possible prices for prescription medications.

 

Medicare Part B Demonstration Questioned

The National Grange has urged Senate and House leaders to question a potentially harmful Medicare Part B demonstration by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The proposed CMS International Pricing Index demonstration would import foreign-based price controls regardless of value or innovation and interjects new middlemen between physicians and patients with complex life-threatening conditions.

 

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Rural Veterans Need the Lifeline Program

The National Grange filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission to support access to affordable rural broadband for the 24 percent of America’s veterans who live in rural America. The filing urged the FCC to preserve no-cost Lifeline offerings, implement the National Verifier in a common sense, straight-forward way, and reexamine the minimum standard regulations that could lead to the elimination of no-cost Lifeline services.

 

Binding Arbitration for Comcast/NBCUniversal

The National Grange wrote the chairmen and ranking minority members of the House Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law regarding the expiring terms of the Comcast/NBCU merger. The Grange suggested that binding arbitration be required to settle program access disputes, that sensible safeguards are necessary to protect consumer prices and assess to programming, and that protections for independent programmers be established.

 

Raising the Bar for Rural Broadband 

The USDA will now require its rural broadband projects to provide access speeds of at least 25 megabits per second upload and 3 megabits per second download as mandated in the new farm bill. Funded projects must serve communities of less than 20,000 people with no broadband service or where service is slower than 10/I Mbps. Projects will compete for $600 million provided by Congress earlier this year.

 
 
 
 Related Website Links
Clicking on these links will open the website in a new window
 
 
 

 
     
     
       
© 2019 The Connecticut State Grange. All Rights Reserved.