New Farm Bill Gains Momentum

April 20, 2018
Representative Roby's Weekly Column

I am proud to share some exciting news for Alabama’s farmers: The House Agriculture Committee has approved the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, more commonly known as the farm bill. I am very pleased by this important step to address the challenges facing farmers across our state and country, and I look forward to seeing the momentum continue as we eventually take the bill up on the House floor.

As you know, agriculture is the largest employer in Alabama’s Second District, responsible for more than 93,000 jobs and $11 billion in economic impact. I know how important it is that we get the farm bill right on behalf of all the farmers in our state, so I’d like to share some key highlights of this critical legislation.

One of the most consistent topics I hear from farmers in the Second District is about burdensome regulations. As you’re well aware, under the Obama Administration, our regulatory state grew by the minute, and the heightened government intrusion has been challenging for farmers and businessowners alike. The new farm bill streamlines and reduces these regulatory burdens by reforming the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as it relates to pesticide registration to ensure that agricultural producers have access to the safest and most efficient crop protection tools. Overbearing rules implemented by federal agencies shouldn’t make farmers’ work harder than it needs to be, so I am proud these measures were included.

Every time I sit down with farmers, regardless of the commodities they grow, I hear stories about troubles with feral hogs. I am glad to report that this farm bill creates a program and provides $100 million to address the destructive behavior of this invasive species.

Under this farm bill proposal, the commodity protection programs in which all crops, like peanuts and cotton, participate gained flexibility to adjust to market prices while keeping the current overall structure in place. Additional protections strengthen the current crop insurance system that is vital to all in the industry. I know farmers, rural bankers, and rural businesses everywhere will be pleased by this.

I’ve said several times that one of my top priorities for the remainder of the year is working with my colleagues in Congress and the Trump Administration to reinvigorate our country’s badly aging infrastructure. Roads and bridges are important, but another significant element is expanding access to broadband. Rural areas of our country should have the same access to broadband and infrastructure that urban areas do. The new farm bill authorizes substantial funding for rural broadband and requires the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish forward-looking broadband standards. You know as well as I do that many areas in Alabama’s Second District will benefit tremendously from increased access to broadband.

Lastly, the new farm bill makes several needed improvements to USDA’s nutrition program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps. This bill implements strict work requirements for SNAP recipients and closes categorical eligibility loopholes. This farm bill maintains nutrition assistance for our most vulnerable Americans when they truly need it while making a commitment to helping them improve their circumstances. I have always believed we should incentivize able-bodied adults to work instead of encouraging them to remain dependent on the government. I’m proud that the new farm bill reflects our conservative principles.

There are many other positive elements of the new farm bill I could highlight, and I have been glad to be engaged in the process to this point. It is a true privilege to advocate for policy that helps the hardworking farmers in our state and district, and I am eager to see the momentum on this bill continue so we can move this important legislation over the finish line. At the end of the day, it is my job to ensure that our farmers are able to do what they do best: provide the food and fiber that sustains our country and the world. I will be sure to keep you informed as we move forward with the new farm bill.