House and Senate Approve the Farm Bill
On December 12, both the House and Senate voted to approve a Farm Bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. The bill will now go to the President for his signature.
The California Avocado Commission (Commission) worked with congressional members to stress the importance of the Farm Bill funding to the California avocado industry and highlighted critical programs. The Farm Bill provides important resources in areas like specialty crop research, invasive pest detection and exclusion efforts, and foreign promotional funding, just to name a few. For example, the Commission received funding for 2018 through the Foreign Agriculture Service’s (FAS) Market Access Program (MAP) for promotional efforts in Japan and is pursuing additional MAP funding for Asia in 2019. These funds are made available through the Farm Bill.
The bill includes a number of victories for the fresh produce industry.
- Continued funding of Specialty Crop Grants — $425 million of funding will be provided for state block grants over the next five years and now includes multi-state grant proposals
- New resources ($125 million) for specialty crop research
- Increased access to fresh produce in federal nutrition programs
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was made permanent
- Added incentives for healthier eating such as the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) and the Produce Prescription Program
- Maintains the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for students
- Strengthened pest and disease programs — provides the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with $75 million annually and approves a new “USDA survey on pesticide for use in risk assessments”
- Improved USDA trade programs with $200 million for the Market Access Program and $9 million for the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops program
- Requires USDA to eliminate bureaucratic hurdles to stymie trade opportunities