The Farm Bill gets in under the wire

Betsy Ward

By Betsy Ward
President and CEO
USA Rice

After more than two years of work, discussing and debating policies and ironing out the kinks, the 2018 Farm Bill has finally been passed and signed into law, and it’s due largely in part to the perseverance and hard work of USA Rice members. You told us what you needed from the Farm Bill, and we took it to Capitol Hill.

You told your legislators what you needed from the Farm Bill, and they went to bat for you to champion your priorities. Throughout all the ups and downs of the past few years, you made your voices heard, and your hard work has finally paid off: The bill that passed as the congressional session came to a close included many of the provisions and changes we fought for, and I think we can all be very happy with the outcome.

Security and stability

The 2018 Farm Bill will guarantee rice farmers some much-needed security and stability in the years to come. One of the most crucial issues for family-owned farms was the family definition in regard to the “actively engaged in farming” rules.

The family definition will now include nephews, nieces and first cousins, which I know is important to many of you who have struggled to make the safety net programs work for you due to your farm’s structure.

The Farm Bill is also a big win for conservation, as it reauthorizes the Conservation Stewardship Program and increases funding for both the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. This will allow the rice industry to continue to be a leader in conservation and sustainability efforts and enjoy greater program flexibility in the process.

International trade

International trade promotion and food aid programs will also be maintained with guaranteed annual mandatory funding. We can now rest assured that those initiatives will continue to benefit the U.S. rice industry as we enjoy opportunities in expanding and developing foreign markets and get high-quality U.S. rice to those in need all over the world.

Let’s continue the momentum

Rice has achieved a great deal with this Farm Bill, and now it’s time to continue this successful momentum on other USA Rice policies and priorities. As always, we’re grateful to the rice community for stepping up when it mattered and getting the job done, ensuring that Washington pays attention to what works for agriculture despite partisan bickering along the way.

But advocacy is a lot like farming — just because one job is done doesn’t mean there isn’t more work to do. The Farm Bill is behind us, but this month Congress welcomed more than 100 completely new members.

This means there’s going to be a lot of education about agriculture and specifically rice to get done. I’m sure we’ll call on you to help us, sharing your story and perhaps hosting tours of your operations. And like I know passing the Farm Bill was welcome news, I know you will rise to the occasion and continue to help us advocate on your behalf.