President Signs 2018 Farm Bill into Law
On Dec. 20, 2018, the president signed the 2018 Farm Bill. This was after Congress swiftly passed the bill, which cleared by overwhelming bipartisan votes in both the House and Senate. The Senate voted 87-13 on Dec. 11, 2018, while the House passed the legislation by a 369-47 vote on Dec. 12, 2018. The bill will be in effect until 2023.
“This Farm Bill is a monumental win for the horticulture industry. Through provisions such as increased funding for research programs, sustained commitments to help our industry deal with pest and disease threats, improved intellectual property options, and research & development for better greenhouse crop insurance — this Farm Bill has it all. We commend leadership of both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, along with party leadership, on getting this bill done and delivering for our industry,” said AmericanHort senior vice president Craig Regelbrugge.
Some top highlights in the Farm Bill, according to AmericanHort, are:
- Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI): Allows for specialty crops to compete for the full $80 million per year for specialty crop research. This was achieved by moving $25 million in dedicated citrus industry funding, which was previously taken from the overall funding, into a separate trust fund. The new provisions provide a $125 million increase over current law for the new five-year Farm Bill.
- Specialty Crop Block Grants: Provides continued funding at $85 million a year. This represents a significant increase in total funding for the program over the five-year lifespan of the Farm Bill from $375 million to $425 million. The legislation also works to help ease existing hurdles in current law that have made the funding of marketing and multi-state projects more difficult.
- Pest and Disease: Maintains FY2018 funding at $75 million per year for pest and disease prevention and mitigation initiatives. Overall this is an increase of $50 million over the life of the 2018 Farm Bill. It also reauthorizes the National Clean Plant Network, which protects key sectors from pathogen threats by providing access to pathogen-tested accessions of the newest varieties of tree fruit, berry, roses, and other high-value horticultural crops.
- Greenhouse Crop Insurance: Initiates research and development into potential expansion/improvement of greenhouse crop insurance coverage.
Other key provisions worthy of mention include expanded plant intellectual property rights options for plant breeders, as well as language throughout the research title to ensure prioritization of research into labor-saving mechanization and automation in various USDA programs.
“Passing the Farm Bill was a critical priority for our organization in 2018, as grassroots action and lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C. played a big part in the success of this effort. AmericanHort members and grassroots partners sent hundreds of emails to their elected officials while our advocacy team engaged directly with lawmakers and staff via joint efforts with the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance,” said AmericanHort director of government relations, Tal Coley. “We look forward to building off the success of its passage and allowing the industry to access and use the resources which it contains.”