Farm Bill helps ag in uncertain times

By Rep. Dan Newhouse

I can share from firsthand experience that farmers typically have a lot to worry about in the best of times.

I recently traveled across Central Washington to hear farmers and ranchers from each county express their concerns. I heard about the importance of opening new markets, increased public education about farming and the source of our food, and the extent to which farmers facing uncertain times rely on reliable crop insurance.

Today, many farmers in Central Washington and across the nation certainly are struggling with uncertain times. Farm incomes have recently dropped 52 percent, the lowest level in more than a decade. Now, low commodity prices, tariff retaliation that threatens exports, scarce labor, and reduced market access are contributing to the normal uncertainties provided by Mother Nature.

The agriculture economy is subject to many factors that farmers cannot control. The recent House passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which I voted for, represents a major opportunity to support our farmers and ranchers as they work to feed our nation and the world.

The Farm Bill is reauthorized every five years in order to give agriculture producers as much certainty as possible and ensure a steady food supply. The 2018 Farm Bill provides for agriculture research, funding market access programs while making those programs more efficient, and crop insurance — an important safety net for many farmers.

This year’s Farm Bill approved by the House includes improvements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which provides food assistance to some of the most vulnerable people in our society. I am proud to say that Washington state’s nutrition programs are a model for the nation and include Basic Food Employment and Training (BFET) and the Resources to Initiate Successful Employment (RISE) Program. BFET provides job training and education to SNAP beneficiaries in order to give them an opportunity to succeed in a living wage career. RISE is a pilot program in Washington State created and funded under the U.S. Department of Agriculture that supports the mission of BFET and SNAP beneficiaries. The purpose of these programs is to give SNAP recipients the opportunity to enjoy the dignity of providing for themselves and contributing to their communities.

This year’s Farm Bill allows these programs to continue and creates federal work and work training requirements that apply to able-bodied, work-capable adults between the ages of 18-59 for 20 hours per week with exemptions for the caretaker of a child under 6 and those who are mentally or physically disabled. An able-bodied adult who has fallen on hard times should be encouraged to succeed and to make progress in supporting themselves.

From helping Americans access nutritious foods they need to keep families healthy to providing certainty to farmers during uncertain times, this year’s Farm Bill will help keep Americans fed and boost rural communities.

 

Dan Newhouse is a representative in the 4th Congressional District of Washington.