Some of my earliest memories are from working on my family’s Hereford cattle farm in the heart of Columbia County. Early mornings, long days, labor intensive work, and the priceless memory of raising my first calf, Cookie, at such a young age will always serve as lessons to be carried with me for a lifetime. Little did I know at the time, but working on my family farm instilled in me the knowledge of why passing a 5-year farm bill is so critical to our great nation.
Upon my election to Congress in 2014, I was fortunate to be selected as a member of the House Agriculture Committee, where we immediately began hosting a series of hearings in Washington on issues critical to rural America, such as commodity programs, rural infrastructure, crop insurance, supplemental nutrition, and many more. We held field hearings in our districts and hosted farm tours to talk to farmers and ranchers at their businesses — gathering input directly from those affected by this legislation.
After the 2018 Farm Bill passed the House of Representatives, I was selected as a member of the conference committee to hammer out any differences between the House and Senate passed bills. Throughout this process, I continued to hear from producers in Georgia’s 12th district about what must be accomplished: protect the programs that work and reform the programs that do not!
That is why I am proud to say that on December 20, 2018, President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill into law, and I was honored to attend the bill signing. I would like to share with you some of the key wins and improvements included in the conference report to H.R. 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.
The 2018 Farm Bill enhances farm policy by maintaining and improving upon the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) options through 2023. It allows producers to make an annual decision between ARC and PLC starting in the 2021 crop year. Our bill preserves crop insurance and includes key improvements to the program that has served as a vital tool for producers recovering from natural disasters and seeking loans each year.
We have also expanded credit opportunities for farmer and ranchers. With our farming families facing a 50% decrease in net farm income, there is no better time than now to ensure our producers have access to credit, so they can start planning for future crop years.
The 2018 Farm Bill includes over thirty improvements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). With over seven million job openings in this country, I was hopeful that this bill would go further to provide those currently enrolled in SNAP with valuable opportunities to prepare for gainful employment. However, we made meaningful progress in improving program integrity and preserving the Administration’s flexibility to enhance SNAP policy to put Americans back to work.
Finally, this farm bill strengthens our continued efforts to provide quality broadband to all of rural America. We made significant improvements to rural broadband delivery and implemented forward-looking standards to ensure we are meeting next-generation broadband needs.
The feedback from passing and signing a five-year farm bill has been overwhelmingly positive. I think Ben Evans, Vice President and General Manager of Coffee County Gin Co., Inc., says it best: “The farm bill underpins the rural economy and the U.S. economy as a whole. Without the safety net that the farm bill affords, farmers’ long-term future is in jeopardy. And with it, so is rural America.
With the loss of the farmer, we also lose our food and fiber security. A firm safety net that keeps all of these things in place is a small price to pay for the safest food and fiber supply in the world.”
With President Trump’s signature on the 2018 Farm Bill, we have successfully set ourselves on a brighter path forward, strengthened the farm safety net, and provided a sense of certainty and flexibility for those who feed and clothe our nation. Simply put, without an effective farm bill, our farmers would not have access to credit opportunities that allow them to plant, and if they cannot plant, we will no longer have the most abundant and affordable food supply in the world. Agriculture is the number one industry in Georgia’s 12th district, and the state of Georgia as a whole, and this farm bill is a modest investment to ensure that we continue to be a global leader in this field. I am just proud to have been a part of drafting this critical legislation and to serve as a voice for Georgia and the 12th district.
Rep. Rick Allen represents the 12th Congressional District of Georgia.