Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons applauded the key provisions included in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 — more commonly known as the Farm Bill — that will help provide much-needed certainty to Delaware farmers, while also protecting the environment.
The bill, which passed the Senate on June 28 by 86-11, also includes an amendment introduced by Carper and Coons that would allow farmers in the beginning stages of farming to apply for conservation funds through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which helps agricultural producers improve operations on their farms — all while protecting the land, as well as air and water quality. Previously, Delaware poultry farmers have been prevented from qualifying for conservation improvements, such as manure storage or composting facilities, until a resource concern is raised or until after birds have been placed on the farm, squandering their ability to access these funds through EQIP.
“In Delaware, and across the nation, our farmers face considerable and unique challenges. Low commodity prices combined with significant uncertainty surrounding this administration’s trade policies have made it very hard for farmers to plan for the future. This bill goes a long way to ensure farmers have the certainty they need to keep producing for this country and driving our economy,” said Carper. “Too often people say we have to choose between having a strong economy and having a healthy environment. This bill proves that is a false choice with clear wins for producers along with strong provisions to maintain a clean and safe environment for all Delawareans. I’m proud to have worked with Sen. Coons, and our colleagues across the aisle, to get a comprehensive and thoughtful piece of legislation over the finish line in the Senate.”
“I was proud to support passage of the Senate Farm Bill, legislation that supports Delaware’s farmers who feed us and drive our economy. In a year when our farmers have already faced increased challenges from unpredictable weather, it is critical that we advance this legislation to provide them with the certainty of a strong farm safety net and the resources they need to continue being good stewards of their land,” said Coons. “I applaud Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow for working in a bipartisan manner to avoid harmful cuts to nutrition and conservation programs that support Delaware’s families and our environment. I look forward to continuing to work with Sen. Carper and our colleagues to pass a strong Farm Bill into law.”
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) that double 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 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.
— Contains zero controversial provisions that weaken critical environmental protections and, as a result, is supported by all major environmental and sportsmen groups, including Defenders of Wildlife, The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited.
— 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 vegetables.
The text of the bill is available at bit.ly/2KF1LPm.