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Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., tells members of the media about the behind-the-scenes work in getting the 2018 farm bill passed through Congress. Trevor Peterson / Forum News Service

Rep. Peterson calls farm bill's passing 'a miracle'

MOORHEAD, Minn. — “So I’m here to report a miracle.”

That’s what Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., shared after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, or Agricultural Improvement Act, in both the Senate and the House.

The conference committee released its final report on Dec. 10, and the day following the Senate passed the final bill by a strong margin of 87-13. The House followed up on Dec. 12 with passage by a vote of 369-47.

Even with the large margins, Peterson, the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee says they came close to losing the bill. He says after the Rules Committee wrapped up there was an effort to push a provision that would limit the Trump administration’s ability to be involved in Yemen.

“In the middle of the night Tuesday, the Republican leadership added an amendment to the farm bill rule that would preclude this Yemen provision in the Senate from coming up in the House,” he says.

According to Peterson, the political posturing on the provision nearly killed the farm bill. He says if it would have been kicked to the next week, it would have been caught up in the government shutdown.

“It’s always something every farm bill.” In fact, Peterson says the same issue on work requirements for recipients of food stamps, now known as SNAP, that was debated in the 2014 Farm Bill held up the 2018 legislation for the last six months.

House Agriculture Committee Chair Mike Conaway, R-Texas, says he couldn’t be happier with the vote turnout.

“Collin and his team delivered across the board. He helped on the rule which was a big deal to get this thing done,” Conaway says.

Only three Democrats voted against the bill. Conaway says it was a team effort, and they ended up with a good bipartisan farm bill.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the end result. There were compromises in there on both sides; most of them made it better,” he says.

President Donald Trump also has agreed to sign the legislation.

Passage of the $867 billion farm bill was historical, as it is the first time since 1990 the legislation was introduced and enacted in the same year. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., says that was important because farmers have been struggling economically and needed the assistance a sound farm bill can provide.

“We needed a safety net. We needed a strong crop insurance program. We needed commodity programs that worked,” she says.

Peterson will become chairman of the House Agriculture Committee with the Democrats taking control of the House and so implementation will fall on his watch. He says that process could take a long time.

“It always does. Probably to get all of it done will take a year,” he says.

Peterson says he’s going to more closely oversee that procedure than he did with the 2014 program.

“One reason is the lobbyists that lose out in the process of writing the bill wait until it’s signed and go over to USDA to try to undo parts of the legislation and often they are successful,” he says.

Farm groups praised lawmakers for improving the legislation. American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall says the passage is welcome news for America’s farmers and ranchers as “it renews risk management tools, foreign market development and environmental stewardship programs that farmers and ranchers need to survive a prolonged and painful downturn in farm income and be sustainable.”

American Soybean Association President Davie Stephens says his group is encouraging quick implementation of the farm bill.

“This legislation will undoubtedly provide a needed layer of stability and certainty for our soy industry and across agriculture. Timely passage of a new farm bill as opposed to another temporary extension this year will offer significant benefits to our industry, including resources for market development, crop insurance provisions, and more for the next five years,” he says.

The National Pork Producers Council was pleased as the bill includes $120 million for the first four years for mandatory funding for animal disease prevention and preparedness efforts, including the Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank.

“The 2018 bill is particularly good for livestock agriculture because it includes funds that will help protect our animals, our food supply and our economy from foreign animal diseases,” National Pork Producers Council President Jim Heimerl says.

The bill also funds the Market Access Program at not less than $200 million and the Foreign Market Development program at not less than $34.5 million.

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