With the Democratic Party now the majority in the House, the Agriculture Committee chairmanship will pass to a Democrat, very likely to Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN). In addition, the composition of the Committee will shift to reflect the Democrats’ newly-won majority in the chamber as a whole.
While Republicans have increased their majority in the Senate by at least three seats, little change is anticipated in the Senate Agriculture Committee. This is good news, since Ag Chair Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow drafted a strong, bipartisan Farm Bill with good support from the full Senate.
The Farm Bill Conferees are still striving to negotiate a final Farm bill before the current session of Congress concludes at the end of the calendar year. National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is working with all Members of Congress to make this goal a reality. Should the Farm Bill not be completed this year (a real possibility), then the new Congress will need to start the process all over in 2019.
With Veterans Day and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One fresh in the collective memory, and recent findings that 40% of the 2.3 million American veterans in transition back to civilian life are interested in farming or ranching, now is an excellent time to urge the Farm Bill Conference to adopt the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) program to help returning vets become the next generation of producers.
Call your Senators and Representative and remind them that it is vital that a strong, bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill be completed, including the following Senate provisions:
Retain and strengthen the Conservation Stewardship Program.
Strengthen “actively engaged in farming” requirements for commodity payments.
Adopt the Local Agriculture Markets Program (LAMP) with permanent baseline funding.
Adopt the FOTO program for beginning, socially-disadvantaged, and veteran farmers.