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Bipartisan farm bill secures major wins for Delaware agriculture

Key provisions to assist new farmers, protect environment
December 18, 2018

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, Sen. Chris Coons and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, all D-Del., lauded major wins for Delaware farmers that their delegation was able to secure in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 – more commonly known as the Farm Bill. These key provisions will provide much-needed support to Delaware farmers while also maintaining important environmental protections that keep the air, water and land clean and safe.

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 includes an amendment originally introduced by Carper and Coons, and championed by the Delaware congressional delegation, that allows startup farmers to apply for conservation funds through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. EQIP helps agricultural producers improve operations on their farms while protecting the land, as well as air and water quality. Previously, beginning Delaware poultry farmers were prevented from applying for conservation funds. In September, the Delaware congressional delegation sent a letter to Farm Bill negotiators to secure this win-win provision for Delaware farmers.

“Our farmers in Delaware and across the country are dealing with unique challenges as they work to feed consumers at home and abroad. Low commodity prices coupled with significant uncertainty surrounding this administration’s trade policies have made it increasingly difficult for our farmers to make long-term planning decisions. My partners Sen. Coons and Congresswoman Blunt Rochester and I fought to ensure that this year’s Farm Bill will help farmers combat these headwinds and allow them to better plan for the future, giving them some of the certainty they need to keep producing for this country and driving our economy,” said Carper.

“I applaud the Farm Bill conferees for negotiating a strong bill that will provide needed certainty to Delaware's farmers, who have faced a challenging year from unpredictable weather, low commodity prices, and trade tensions. This bill sustains our farm safety net, makes critical investments in agricultural conservation and research, supports rural communities, and avoids harmful changes to SNAP,” said Coons.

“My goal in obtaining a seat on the House Agriculture Committee was to help craft a farm bill that met the specific needs of Delaware’s farmers, producers and consumers. Through my work on the committee and in roundtable discussions across the state, I was able to hear Delawareans’ concerns and hopes for the Farm Bill, and by partnering with Sen. Carper and Sen. Coons, we were able to turn those concerns into tangible results for everyone in the state – from farm to fork,” said Blunt Rochester. “Through months of tense negotiations, we were able to secure funding for critical conservation funds like the EQIP program, expand the crop insurance program to backstop farmers in difficult years, and protect vulnerable families through nutrition programs like SNAP. We can finally vote for a Farm Bill that protects Delaware’s over 30,000 agricultural and forestry jobs and maintains our state and universities’ status as leaders in agriculture research and technology for years to come.”

Specifically, the 2018 Farm Bill: maintains support for agricultural conservation programs important to Delaware, such as the Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentive Program and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which offer crucial tools to help farmers in Delaware and around the country protect water quality, preserve the land and enhance wildlife habitats. It also includes increased funding for the RCPP programs and creates additional opportunities for farmers on Delmarva, and throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, to benefit from the program; expands crop insurance while improving access for veterans, beginning farmers, dairy farmers, and fruit and vegetable growers; preserves critical food access for millions of families, including thousands of families in Delaware; makes key improvements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that affirm existing regulations while avoiding harmful eligibility changes; creates new initiatives to make fruits and vegetables more accessible and affordable; fights the opioid crisis through expanded telemedicine and community facility investments to provide critical treatment options for those who suffer from opioid addiction; keeps out controversial provisions that weaken critical environmental protections, thereby winning support from many major environmental and sportsmen groups; provides funding for farmers markets and organic research; develops a new Harvesting Healthnproduce prescription program to allow healthcare providers to help low-income patients build healthier diets and access more fruits and vegetables; and provides $40 million for 1890 Scholarship Programs, which can be utilized at Delaware State University.