Farm Bill Advances in House, Senate Bill On-Deck This Week
(June 26, 2018) – After several weeks of the House’s 2018 Farm Bill being held up due to controversial unrelated immigration legislation, the House last week passed its version of the Farm Bill by a slim two-vote threshold. In May, the same version of the legislation failed to pass, as a faction of House Members demanded a vote first on the immigration legislation in exchange for their support for the Farm Bill.
Having engaged with the House Agriculture Committee and its members over the past year, NACWA and its Farm Bill Working Group appreciate the inclusion of several of the Association’s key priorities under the “Conservation Title” of the Farm Bill. These provisions help address water quality at a watershed level by strengthening programs that provide the dual benefit of cleaner water and other benefits to farmers productivity. They include:
- An amendment championed by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) that provides a Sense of Congress that the federal government should recognize and encourage partnerships at the watershed level between nonpoint sources and regulated point sources to advance the goals of the Clean Water Act and provide benefits to farmers, landowners, and the public;
- Several key changes under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) that include allowing projects to exceed five-year project terms to meet the objectives of the program, providing a streamlined application process and an expedited project renewal process, and ensuring increased quantification of environmental outcomes;
- Establishing two new conservation provisions under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) that require precision conservation management planning and cover crops to be included under the program;
- Allowing up to $25 million annually in Conservation Innovation Grants (CIGs) to be used to enter into “on farm” agreements for conservation innovation trials for approaches, including precision agriculture technology and enhanced nutrient management plans; and
- An amendment championed by Rep. John Faso (R-NY) based on bipartisan legislation NACWA supports that directs USDA carry out a conservation effects assessment project to report on the environmental and economic benefits of conservation practices, using newly dedicated funding from the farm bill and creating a technical committee to oversee the work.
The bill also ensures that at least ten percent of all conservation program funding, which amounts to $400 million, is used to promote water quality and quantity practices that protect source water. This new subsection will increase collaboration with community water systems and offers higher payment rates for practices that result in environmental benefits.
NACWA appreciates the leadership of Congressman Gibbs on his amendment, as well as Congressman Faso, and the collaboration the House has engaged in with NACWA to ensure inclusion of our priorities in the bill to advance the goals of the clean water sector.
The full Senate is expected to vote on and pass its version of the Farm Bill later this week, which also includes several key NACWA priorities. Last week, NACWA joined with several organizations in sending a letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee to express support for the Conservation Title of the Senate Farm Bill. The Senate is expected to pass its version of the Farm Bill with overwhelmingly bipartisan support.
NACWA looks forward to continued engagement with both the Senate and House as they work to hash out the differences in their respective versions of the Farm Bill prior to the September 30 expiration deadline. For more information on NACWA’s Farm Bill efforts, please contact Jason Isakovic or Kristina Surfus, NACWA’s Legislative Directors.