As a conference committee attempts to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, commonly known as the “Farm Bill,” South Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers said both versions have provisions which could benefit the state’s farmers.
One of the priorities for South Carolina was crop insurance assistance, Weathers said. “It withstood some challenges from the House version and was not seriously challenged in the Senate so, in terms of our number one priority, we are pleased with that development,” he said. Both bills would increase the subsidization of crop insurance for farmers, which was reduced in 2014.
A program which encourages farmers to grow non-program crops such as fruits and vegetables also remains in the bill.
“The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, while was not increased, as very few were, but to keep that program helps our farmers who grow crops that are not a program crop, for which is a big part of South Carolina,” Weathers said. Program crops include corn, soybeans and cotton.
Weathers said the Specialty Crop Block Grant was “critical.”
Another element of the Farm Bill considered “critical” by Weathers was programming for foreign agricultural services. “Market access to programs to help new markets around the world to be opened up to United States agriculture and in, by extension, South Carolina Agriculture,” he said.
All but two of South Carolina’s congressional delegation voted in favor of the bill. Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford and Democrat U.S. Rep. James Clyburn voted against the bill.
The House version of the bill includes a work requirement for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which Weathers suspects contributed to some of the “no” votes. Click here for information on the House version.
“I think that one of our votes against was strictly for political — was due to the political nature of SNAP, not for the merits of the farm bill components,” he said. “The first time it was voted on it failed by a number of votes: 17, 18 votes, something like that. It failed, again, a lot of those things were woven into larger political issues around immigration and (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival immigration) and things that go far beyond the Farm Bill. So I’m glad that even as closely contested as it was, in the margin that the Farm Bill did, in fact, pass the House.”
Although the bill has a long way to go before a final version could head to the president’s desk, Weathers and South Carolina farmers are pleased that it’s progressing.
“I would have guessed that we would have not made progress and would not have met the September 30 deadline when the current law expires. But I am optimistic now that we can,” he said. “I’ve heard opinions of ‘glad that we’ve made it this far.’ Glad that it looks more optimistic that we will get a bill passed before the September 30 deadline.”