(NETWORK IN) The new Farm Bill being put together in the U.S. Senate contains many wins for Hoosiers, said Sen. Joe Donnelly. Donnelly said he visited farms and people across Indiana before submitting suggestions to the Senate Agricultural Committee, which approved the bill Wednesday.
The bill still has to pass the House and full Senate before it becomes law. The last farm bill failed earlier this year, 213-198.
Donnelly said the wins for Hoosiers in the bill include:
Fighting the Opioid Epidemic: This bill includes a number of provisions that would combat the opioid epidemic by targeting telemedicine and community facility investments for substance abuse treatment.
Promoting Voluntary Conservation Programs: The bill would eliminate potential disincentives for voluntary conservation practices like cover crops and support soil health improvement programs. Donnelly said he 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.
Developing New Markets: The bill would increase export opportunities for Hoosier farmers through export promotion programs.
Supporting Rural Communities: The bill would help rural communities attract investment and growth by improving the delivery of high-speed internet 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.
“I’m pleased this bill would improve the tools farmers use to manage uncontrollable risks; expand market opportunities; invest in broadband and provide resources to fight the opioid epidemic; and fight food insecurity. I hope the full Senate considers the farm bill quickly,” said Donnelly.
“We urge the Senate Agriculture Committee to pass their bipartisan farm bill without harmful amendments to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as food stamps),” said Jessica Fraser, with the Indiana Institute for Working Families.
“We are hopeful the Senate keeps SNAP working by opposing any amendments that would cut SNAP or make harmful changes that would take away food assistance from Hoosiers struggling to feed their families,” she said.