Granger, Ind. – The Senate Agriculture Committee released the draft text for the 2018 Farm Bill, which contains a number of provisions championed by U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly that would benefit Indiana agriculture and the state’s rural communities. Donnelly, who serves on the committee, helped craft the bipartisan bill and earlier this week reiterated priorities for the bill that were developed after holding 12 listening sessions with nearly every segment of Indiana’s agricultural community. The Donnelly provisions included in the bill would help improve risk management tools, expand market opportunities, promote voluntary conservation activities, combat the opioid epidemic, support rural communities with investments in high-speed internet and waste- and drinking-water infrastructure, and fight against food insecurity. Next Wednesday, the Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to debate and markup the 2018 Farm Bill.
Donnelly said, “As the hired help, I’ve been committed to making sure Hoosiers have a voice in this farm bill. I took what I heard from Hoosiers and worked with my colleagues to develop a bipartisan bill that would: improve the tools farmers use to manage uncontrollable risks; expand market opportunities; invest in conservation practices to enhance soil health and water quality; support rural communities with investments in broadband and resources to fight the opioid epidemic; and fight food insecurity. I look forward to further bipartisan work in the Ag Committee so that we can pass this commonsense bill and give Hoosier farmers and families the certainty they deserve.”
Several Donnelly-led or –supported provisions were included in the initial text of the Senate Ag Committee’s farm bill:
- Fighting the Opioid Epidemic: This bill includes a number of Donnelly-written provisions that would combat the opioid epidemic by targeting telemedicine and community facility investments for substance abuse treatment, developed from the bipartisan rural opioids package Donnelly introduced in July 2017.
- Promoting Voluntary Conservation Programs: The bill would eliminate potential disincentives for voluntary conservation practices like cover crops and support soil health improvement programs. Donnelly heard about the importance of cover crops and conservation programs in several listening session stops, including in 2017 in Knox County and in March 2018 with conservationists and sportsmen in Montgomery County.
- Supporting Specialty Crop Growers: The bill would retain full planting flexibility for farmers who want to plant fruits and vegetables, which builds on a bipartisan bill Donnelly introduced with Senator Todd Young in December 2017 and Donnelly’s work in the 2014 and 2008 farm bills. Donnelly heard about the continued importance of this in August 2017 when he held a listening session at the Red Gold Tomato Farm in Grant County with specialty produce farmers.
- Developing New Markets: The bill would increase export opportunities for Hoosier farmers through export promotion programs, building on Donnelly’s bipartisan legislation with Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Angus King (I-ME), and Susan Collins (R-ME) that would invest in the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development program.
- Supporting Rural Communities: The bill would help rural communities attract investment and growth by improving the delivery of high-speed and investing in waste- and drinking-water by infrastructure to ensure water systems are providing clean and reliable water.
- Fighting Food Insecurity: The bill would strengthen oversight of the SNAP program and help fight food insecurity by reforming food assistance programs, while protecting access to benefits and maintaining the integrity of the programs. It would make it easier for seniors to access food assistance by reducing burdensome paperwork based on legislation that Donnelly supported led by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). In November 2017, Donnelly toured the Food Finders Food Bank Inc. in Lafayette and met with representatives from statewide anti-hunger groups to bring their thoughts to the bill.
Earlier this week, Donnelly outlined his priorities for the Farm Bill in a letter to Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). To read the full letter click here.
Through his work on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Donnelly has worked tirelessly to advocate for Hoosier farmers and rural communities. As part of the previous Farm Bill, Donnelly successfully pushed several measures important to Indiana that were signed into law in 2014. The Farm Bill is typically reauthorized every five years, and the current bill expires in September 2018.