Farm Bill Conference Report Heeds Evidence on SNAP and Invests in Local Food Economies, But Slashes Key Conservation Program

Statement by Ricardo Salvador, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Dec 11, 2018

WASHINGTON (December 11, 2018) – Months after the previous farm bill expired, the congressional farm bill conference committee released its 2018 Farm Bill Conference Report. Like the Senate version of the legislation passed in June, the bipartisan agreement among House and Senate negotiators maintains the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) without new punitive work requirements.

In good news for farmers and low-income consumers alike, the conference report also increases support for new farmers and farmers of color; expands funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives program, which helps low-income shoppers purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers; and includes a new Local Agriculture Market Program, which would strengthen regional economies and better connect farmers with those consumers. Furthermore, the conference report maintains or increases funding for critical research programs, including the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative.  

However, the conference report slashes funding for the USDA’s popular but chronically underfunded Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which helps farmers safeguard their soil and protect air and water quality. A recent UCS analysis showed that every dollar invested in CSP generates $3.95 in benefits to taxpayers and farmers. Cutting CSP will reduce long-term environmental gains and leave farmers and communities more vulnerable to erosion, pollution, and the impacts of flooding and drought.

Below is a statement by Ricardo Salvador, senior scientist and director of the Food and Environment Program at UCS.

“Following in the Senate’s footsteps, the conference committee has agreed to a bipartisan farm bill that builds on ample evidence that the SNAP program works and that investments in regional economies and market opportunities for farmers are good for local jobs and public health.

“At the same time, the agreement scales back investment in the nation’s largest and highest-value working farm conservation program. The program uniquely helps farmers combine science-based practices—such as complex crop rotations and rotational grazing—into whole-farm systems that increase productivity and build healthy, resilient soil. It’s disappointing that this farm bill won’t maintain this investment in innovation, which would pay big dividends to farmers and taxpayers in the future.”