Farm Bill Passes Senate, Includes Provisions Authored by Senator Collins to Benefit Maine Farmers

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins announced today that the Senate passed the 2018 Farm Bill by an overwhelming bipartisan margin of 87-13.  The legislation, which includes a number of provisions Senator Collins authored to support Mainers employed in the agriculture industry, now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 

“Our agriculture industry is an integral part of our economy and continues to be the lifeblood of countless rural communities.  Thousands of Mainers are employed on farms, and the myriad products they produce, ranging from potatoes to dairy to maple syrup, are renowned for their superior quality and taste.  Maine farmers work tirelessly every day to meet the growing demand for locally grown and raised products, and this legislation will provide them with the support they need to continue to thrive.”

 

Provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill include:

 

  • The Next Generation in Agriculture Act, introduced with Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), will give the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) more resources to help young and beginning farmers become established in the field of agriculture.  Click HERE to read more.

 

  • The Organic Agricultural Research Act of 2018, introduced with Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), will reauthorize the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative for an additional five years and gradually increase its funding from $40 million in fiscal year 2019 to $50 million in fiscal year 2023.  Click HERE to read more.

 

  • The Nourishing Our Golden Years Act, introduced with Senator Casey, will reduce the administrative barriers for low-income seniors participating in the Senior Food Box Program, which reduces food insecurity.  Click HERE to read more.

 

  • The Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) Reauthorization Act, introduced with Senator Angus King (I-ME), will extend the authorization of the NBRC for five years, which funds grants for projects throughout northern and central Maine and other northeastern states.  The legislation also increases the NBRC’s authorization to $33 million per year and makes additional reforms to encourage business retention and expansion in northern Maine and distressed rural communities.  Click HERE to read more.

 

  • The Dairy Innovation Act, introduced with Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), will establish regional initiatives to spur innovation in dairy businesses, which can help add more value to the milk farmers produce and expand uses for milk to address oversupply and depressed milk prices. The legislation will also foster the development of new and innovative dairy products, modernize existing dairy plants and support new dairy entrepreneurs.  Click HERE to read more.

 

  • Several provisions from the Local Farms and Regional Market Supply (FARMS) Act, introduced with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), were incorporated, including the establishment of the Agricultural Market Development Program (at $80 million per year for five years) to improve the local food supply chain by providing grants to farmers to support farm-to-retail marketing, farmers’ markets, agritourism, and planning and feasibility studies; $8 million a year for five years to support the Organic Cost-Share Certification Program; $4 million a year for five years for a new Harvesting Health pilot program which will provide low-income individuals with fresh fruits and vegetables; and the reauthorization of the Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, which expands eligibility to low-income veterans and increases its annual funding from roughly $20 million per year to $50 million per year.

 

The 2018 Farm Bill does not include harmful provisions that Senator Collins fought against, including:

 

  • A proposed amendment that would have required state and local governments to accept products from other states even if those products violate standards and regulations enacted in the importing state. 

 

  • A proposed amendment that would have allowed companies to continue mislabeling imitation dairy foods that can cause confusion among consumers and lead to lost sales for dairy farm families; and

 

  • Proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that would have limited eligibility for vulnerable individuals.  Instead, the 2018 Farm Bill maintains current policy and criteria, while improving program integrity and prioritizing proven job training and employment programs.