House Agriculture Committee Approves 2018 Farm Bill Language
By: Lowell Randel
On April 18th, House Agriculture Committee Chairman met to mark-up H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018. The bill has been subject to partisan controversy due to proposed changes in nutrition programs. The House bill places stricter requirements on work and work training for able-bodied program recipients. House Democrats have strongly criticized this approach and halted negotiations with Republicans in March. As a result, the mark-up was highly charged and focused primarily on the nutrition title.
While there was much debate about the nutrition provisions, no amendments were offered to change the nutrition title. In fact, very few amendments were offered, and no Democrats offered any amendments. The bill passed by a voice vote and Chairman Conaway has indicated his desire to have floor consideration in May.
The Animal Agriculture Coalition has actively worked to advance a number of Farm Bill initiatives that were included in the House version. The Committee’s Top Ten Highlights includes emphasis on support for new animal health programs. The bill establishes a new National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program, designed to protect the health of the nation’s livestock sector. The program is modeled on the highly successful Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program that has strengthened USDA’s ability to protect U.S. agriculture and natural resources from foreign plant pest threats. The bill also establishes a new U.S.-only vaccine bank with priority for stockpiling Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine and provides for the enhancement of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network
Concerns have been raised about the House bill’s changes to the Agricultural Genome Initiative. Under the House language, the program would be renamed the Agricultural Genome to Phenome and focus exclusively on plant science. The language provides budget authority of $30 million annually for the program but would be subject to the annual appropriations process. While the new program would not impact current animal genome programs supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the change would set a negative precedent by excluding animal genomics. Efforts are underway to communicate the importance of animal genomics and the need to make sure there is balanced authority for both plants and animals. Progress is being made in this area and with the goal to include additional animal genomics authority into the Farm Bill as the process moves forward.
The following links provide additional details about the bill text, section-by-section summary and highlights: