Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue outlined USDA's Farm Bill and legislative principles during a town hall meeting in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue outlined USDA's Farm Bill and legislative principles during a town hall meeting in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania. (photo: USDA)
MIFFLINTOWN, Pa. — Improving US market competitiveness, promoting a variety of innovative crop insurance products and changes, and strengthening the integrity and efficiency of food and nutrition programs are three of the more than 40 US Dept. of Agriculture farm bill and legislative principles outlined by US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue this week. Perdue unveiled the principles during a town hall meeting at Reinford Farms in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, on Jan. 24.

“Since my first day as the Secretary of Agriculture, I’ve traveled to 30 states, listening to the people of American agriculture about what is working and what is not,” Perdue said. “The conversations we had and the people we came across helped us craft USDA’s farm bill and legislative principles for 2018. These principles will be used as a road map — they are our way of letting Congress know what we’ve heard from the hard-working men and women of American agriculture. While we understand it’s the legislature’s job to write the farm bill, USDA will be right there providing whatever counsel Congress may request or require.”

The USDA has created a 9-point list of principles that it will support for the 2018 farm bill. Each principle focuses on strengthening support, expanding opportunities for the US ag sector and staying ahead of industry issues.

The top item in the list of priorities is farm production and conservation, including a farm safety net to help farmers during times of economic stress. It also includes promoting innovative crop insurance and encouraging new entrants into farming. Conservation priorities will be balanced with farm productivity, so the most fertile land remains in production, the USDA said.

The USDA’s next priority will focus on working to keep the new farm bill in line with US international trade laws and obligations. The USDA said it will look to improve US market competitiveness by expanding investments, strengthening accountability of export promotion programs and incentivizing financial partnerships. Also, under the trade and foreign agricultural affairs category the USDA said it will explore ways to open foreign markets by increasing the department’s expertise in scientific and technical areas to more effectively monitor foreign practices that impede US agricultural exports and engage with foreign partners to address them.

A third area of focus is food, nutrition and consumer services, where the USDA said it sees a need for help in creating self-sufficiency, well-being and economic mobility for individuals and families receiving supplemental nutrition needs. The USDA said it will attempt to strengthen the integrity and efficiency of food and nutrition programs to better serve its participants and protect American taxpayers by reducing waste, fraud and abuse through shared data, innovation, and technology modernization.

The USDA is hoping to build upon its marketing and regulatory programs by creating a stronger partnership with scientific tools necessary to prevent, mitigate, and where appropriate, eradicate harmful plant and animal pests and diseases affecting agriculture. The agency noted it plans to safeguard the US domestic food supply and protect animal health through modernization of the tools necessary to bolster biosecurity, prevention, surveillance, emergency response, and border security.

Protecting public health by committing the necessary resources to ensure the highest standards of inspection, with the most modern tools and scientific methods available within its food safety and inspection services is another principle the USDA is supporting.

To achieve many of these goals or principles successfully the USDA said it is looking for continued support of research, education and economics. Specifically, the department said it will look to commit to a public research agenda that places the United States at the forefront of food and agriculture scientific development.

In order to promote rural development, the USDA is looking to create consistency and flexibility in programs that will foster collaboration and assist communities in creating a quality of life that attracts and retains the next generation.

Natural resources and environment is another area the USDA is hoping to improve and expand upon, reducing litigative risk and regulatory impediments to timely environmental review, sound harvesting, fire management and habitat protection to improve forest health while providing jobs and prosperity to rural communities.

Lastly, management is expected to take on a greater role as part of the new principles. The USDA said it will look to provide a fiscally responsible farm bill that reflects the administration’s budget goals. The department also plans to increase the effectiveness of tools and resources necessary to attract and retain a strong USDA workforce that reflects the citizens the USDA serves.
The release of the 2018 farm bill and legislative principles were met with a mostly positive response from the industry.

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, called the roadmap “a good one” for farmers, ranchers and rural communities.

“The secretary’s farm bill principles look to the future while securing the present for farmers and ranchers who continue to face a prolonged period of reduced farm income,” Duvall said. “We are pleased the secretary and his team have highlighted not just the importance of risk management on the farm, but also rural development, research and development, trade, conservation and nutrition. We applaud Secretary Perdue’s clear signal that he is looking forward to working with agriculture’s leaders in Congress, just as is Farm Bureau, to arrive at a farm bill that will bring out the best agriculture has to offer the American people and the world.”

The National Grain and Feed Association added its support to the principles, noting “NGFA supports USDA’s conservation farm bill principle to keep fertile lands in production, enabling US farmers to feed a hungry world and a need to keep America competitive by promoting trade.”