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Farm bill passage helps Central Washington farm country

 


Last week, Congress voted 369-47 to pass the 2018 Farm Bill, sending this critical legislation to President Trump for his signature into law. The agreement sets us on a better path for our country’s farmers and ranchers, for our rural communities, for small businesses, and for consumers across the country at the grocery store and at kitchen tables.

In March, I traveled across Central Washington to speak with farmers from every county in the Fourth Congressional District about their goals for the Farm Bill. With passage of the bill, I am proud to spread the news that we have provided a strong foundation to help farmers survive a 50-percent drop in net farm income over the past five years. I am proud to let farmers in Pateros in Okanogan County know that we have strengthened market access programs and provided strong resources to open new sources for exporting across the globe. I can tell farmers in Grant County that we have protected crop insurance and made several key improvements, including for whole farm revenue coverage for specialty crop producers. I can tell dairy producers in Yakima County that we have improved the dairy safety net for large, mid-sized, and small dairies. I can report back to producers in Prosser in Benton County, who stressed to me the importance of agricultural research, that we have provided an increase in funding for research, for extension, and for education projects.

With the passage of the Farm Bill, key agricultural partners in our community like Washington State University can be confident that we will keep American agriculture at the forefront of innovation and productivity. Farmers from East Wenatchee can be confident that this Farm Bill invests in critical cost-share and incentive-based programs to help farm families improve our soil, water, and other natural resources. Farmers in Othello in Adams County with whom I spoke, who are concerned with the regulatory burdens on their shoulders, can be assured that this legislation protects producers from costly additional, unnecessary red tape.

The legislation directs the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation Board (FCIC) to streamline the process for developing hop insurance policies. The bill requires FCIC to submit a report on hops policies that describes the results of the policy developments along with any recommendations.

The legislation renames the dairy Margin Protection Program to Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) and builds on the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) investment by offering new coverage levels for the first 5 million pounds of dairy production, drastically reducing premiums on catastrophic coverage levels for larger producers.

The 2018 Farm Bill also expedites environmental reviews to protect our forests from catastrophic wildfires – a central concern for Central Washington communities. The legislation encourages proper management for healthy and productive federal, state, and private forests and incentivizes infrastructure and new market opportunities to revitalize communities and healthy landscapes.

As a proud third-generation farmer from the Yakima Valley, this is the first Farm Bill that I have had the opportunity to engage in since being in Congress. While it was not perfect, the bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill will strengthen the future for America’s farmers and all those who depend upon them.

*This column was adapted from a speech Rep. Newhouse gave on the House floor on December 12, 2018.

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