Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester lauded on Dec. 11 the major wins for Delaware farmers that the delegation was able to secure in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 — more commonly known as the Farm Bill.
These key provisions will help provide much-needed certainty to Delaware farmers while also maintaining important environmental protections that keep air, water and land clean and safe. The final text of the bill, which was released Dec. 10, is scheduled to be voted on in the House and Senate. A link to the final text of the bill is available at bit.ly/2Ux8H6q.
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 includes an amendment originally introduced by Carper and Coons and championed by the Delaware Congressional Delegation that allows farmers in the beginning stages of farming to apply for conservation funds through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. EQIP helps agricultural producers improve operations on their farms — all while protecting the land, as well as air and water quality. Previously, Delaware poultry farmers in the beginning stages of farming were prevented from applying for conservation funds. In September, the Delaware Congressional Delegation sent a letter to Farm Bill negotiators to secure this win-win provision for Delaware farmers.
“Our farmers in Delaware and across the country are dealing with unique challenges as they work to feed consumers at home and abroad. Low commodity prices coupled with significant uncertainty surrounding this administration’s trade policies have made it increasingly difficult for our farmers to make long-term planning decisions. My partners Sen. Coons and Congresswoman Blunt Rochester and I fought to ensure that this year’s farm bill will help farmers combat these headwinds and allow them to better plan for the future, giving them some of the certainty they need to keep producing for this country and driving our economy,” said Carper. “This bill also proves that we don’t have to pick between a strong economy and a healthy environment. Too often, sweeping legislation like the Farm Bill is used to push through harmful provisions that roll back protections for the land we all share, the water we drink and the air we breathe. That is not the case with this legislation, and that is a win-win for our state and the country. I’m proud to have worked with Sen. Coons, Congresswoman Blunt Rochester and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to produce a comprehensive Farm Bill that shows just how fruitful legislation can be when we work together.”
“I applaud the Farm Bill conferees for negotiating a strong bill that will provide needed certainty to Delaware's farmers, who have faced a challenging year from unpredictable weather, low commodity prices and trade tensions. This bill sustains our farm safety net, makes critical investments in agricultural conservation and research, supports rural communities, and avoids harmful changes to SNAP,” said Coons. “I was also pleased to work with Sen. Carper and Congresswoman Blunt Rochester to ensure that our provision to expand beginning poultry farmers' access to conservation funds through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program was included in the final Farm Bill, and I look forward to supporting its passage in the Senate.”
“My goal in obtaining a seat on the House Agriculture Committee was to help craft a farm bill that met the specific needs of Delaware’s farmers, producers, and consumers. Through my work on the committee and in roundtable discussions across the state, I was able to hear Delawareans’ concerns and hopes for the Farm Bill, and by partnering with Sen. Carper and Sen. Coons, we were able to turn those concerns into tangible results for everyone in the state — from farm to fork,” said Blunt Rochester. “Through months of tense negotiations, we were able to secure funding for critical conservation funds like the EQIP program, expand the crop insurance program to backstop farmers in difficult years, and protect vulnerable families through nutrition programs like SNAP. I am proud that Congress came together in a bipartisan, bicameral way to uphold the very purpose of the Farm Bill. We can finally vote for a Farm Bill that protects Delaware’s over 30,000 agricultural and forestry jobs and maintains our state and universities’ status as leaders in agriculture research and technology for years to come.”
Specifically, the 2018 Farm Bill:
— Maintains support for agricultural conservation programs important to Delaware, such as the Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentive Program and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program — programs that offer crucial tools to help farmers in Delaware and around the country protect water quality, preserve the land and enhance wildlife habitats.
— Includes improvements included in the Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act (S.2039/H.R. 4420) that increase funding for the RCPP programs and create additional opportunities for farmers on Delmarva, and throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, to benefit from the program.
— Expands crop insurance to help cover crops that are not covered by insurance, while also improving access for veterans, beginning farmers, dairy farmers and fruit and vegetable growers.
— Preserves critical food access for millions of families, including thousands of families in Delaware.
— Makes key improvements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that affirm existing regulations on SNAP work requirements, while avoiding harmful eligibility changes that would take away benefits and create unnecessary obstacles for states and working families.
— Creates new initiatives to make fruits and vegetables more accessible and affordable.
— Fights the opioid crisis through expanded telemedicine and community facility investments to provide critical treatment options for those who suffer from opioid addiction.
— Keeps out controversial provisions that weaken critical environmental protections and, as a result, has won support from major environmental and sportsmen groups, including The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, National Audubon Society, Environmental Defense Fund and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
— Provides funding for farmers markets and organic research.
— Develops a new “Harvesting Health” produce prescription program to allow health care providers to help low-income patients build healthier diets and access more fruits and vegetable.
— Provides $40 million for 1890 Scholarship Programs, which can be utilized at Delaware State University.